October 24, 2017

A random post about burgers

I have a lot of things to write about, many of them important. Such as my thoughts on my music career, which crashed before it could take off. Such as the long-due post about my thoughts on my years as a full-time journalist. My feelings about my beloved bike, which I had to sell off with a heavy heart. My past two months in Bangalore. Getting to stay in Balco again, after leaving the place for good in 2004. My two cents about the grown-up life, marriage, big city vs hometown... A long list. 

There's so much more I've been wanting to write. No excuses, I've been extremely lazy and unproductive since quitting the newsroom in June 2014. Boy, that's more than three years! Prime years of my youth. Wasted? Maybe... But know what? No regrets. Regret does you no good. I have lived a life of extreme deprivation in Bangalore. Work seven days a week, no leisure, no social circle at all. I deserve all the laidback time I've enjoyed. (More on this in another post.)

Yeah, so here is a random topic I wanted to discuss: Good burgers.

The first time I had McDonald's, I was wowed. It was more than 10 years ago, I guess. McDonald's had just opened an outlet in Doon and I had gone with my cousins. Back then, they'd serve burgers with a generous serving of creamy cheese. McAloo Tikki would almost drip with that characteristic creamy orange cheese. But as time passed by, they drastically reduced the amount of cheese. 
Neither McAloo Tikki remained the same nor my other favourite, hitherto mayonnaise-laden McVeggie. This was such a bummer. A deal-breaker, actually.

This time around, McD was going to town with its ad campaign "Aap ke zamaane mein baap ke zamaane ke daam". Sadly, they prevented the cost of their product from rising by allowing a dip in its quality. Bad decision

These burgers just haven't been the same since. It's been disappointing. I gave up on McDonald's and never felt drawn to its store again. (Except that one time on Brigade Road in Bangalore when I needed to pee and I figured going to the loo in the McD was my best bet.)

About three years ago, a friend in Bangalore introduced me to KFC's Zinger. Being a vegetarian, of course I opted for the Paneer Zinger and it was smacking! Gosh... My mouth is watering again as I think of it. Its burger patty is essentially a batter-dipped and deep fried sandwich of two soft slices of paneer and an awesome spicy chutney. Gosh. My mouth just won't stop watering now. (And it's watering again as I'm proof-reading this post. It was so yummy!)

It was only around that time that these Zinger burgers were launched and KFC was running a promotional offer of buy 1, get 1 on Wednesdays. Thank God for that! I had these awesome burgers three-four times and fell in love with them.

A month later, I had it again with another set of friends, with me telling them what a great find it is. Sadly, the promotional offer had ended and we had to buy these at full price. Ouch! Quite costly, Rs140-160 for a burger. I don't recall being wowed by the burger this time. Was it because I was having it in Chhattisgarh and it didn't quite taste the same? Or was it the price point?

Well, I still loved the burger enough and gave it another shot, this time in Dehradun. Zinger with much less zing. Disappointing. It's sad. You find an awesome burger, you fall in love with it, at first you can't get enough of it but then it ceases to remain that bright and beautiful thing that won your heart.

Doesn't matter whether it's a girl or a burger who does this to you, it hurts.

Anybody who knows me well knows I'm not much into fast food anyway. I hardly eat out. Hardly ever. But for once if I want to have something nice without wanting to spare Rs100 notes, I should be able to.

(I can't help if from this point on, this blogpost looks like it's a paid post.)

And then two months ago, I got to eat at Burger King in Bangalore. Boy! I loved it! Crispy Veg Supreme, costing Rs45 but totally worth it. Yummy! Later, I also got to have their Veg Whopper. Although it was a takeaway and thus its filling was a bit here-there when I unpacked it, I still enjoyed it.

You know what? I'm looking forward to having this Whopper thing again. And try their entire veg range, in fact. Sadly, the mall here that has a Burger King outlet is far from my house, so I can't just go and have it whenever I feel like. But maybe this is fine. For, if it was close, I might have felt tempted to go there often to indulge my taste buds, which have been subjected to a lot of ubli lauki, turai etc since I moved back home.

The only problem is, these burgers are made of maida, refined wheat flour, which is not good for your health. Well, it's called junk food for a reason. Yeah. If food this tasty were to be healthy and nutritious, I'd have had loads of it. (That is, if I weren't to feel too lazy to step out, which has been the case with me since I moved back home.)

Yeah, if I had my bike here, there's no doubt I'd have va va vroomed my way to that mall whose food court has Burger King. But I don't have my bike anymore. Well, this bike thing is a sad topic. I'll write about it. I need to. But that's another post. And I'll write regularly from now on.

March 10, 2017

Three dreams and a tip for great sleep

Dream no. 1: The recurring nightmare
I don't understand. Why do I still get those nightmares about my 12th board exams! It was exactly 12 years ago that my batch had its final board exams. The exams never scared me then, why should they now!

Granted, I had failed in four out of five subjects in the first pre-board, and had failed in physics in every single exam (in all the unit tests and pre-boards, except the unit test where I availed of chits, and my last-row seat), never ever was I worried even then. I was failing, so what! It was only because I'd never study, since I loathed the subjects. I never wanted to study science at +2 level. My parents had forced me into it ("Take science, or you'll be kicked out of this home.")

Now, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. And then I'm said to be a jackass. I never do something I don't like. So I never studied, until the day before the exam. And that was enough to secure passing marks. I was never worried. OK, I was worried for a few minutes the day before the physics pre-board, which was on March 1. But that's that. Once I pulled my hitherto untouched book out of the plastic cover it had been wrapped in for a full year, I was amazed at how easy it all was! Once I was in the zone, I could merrily grasp every concept, every phenomenon that was gobbledygook to me until then. Within half an hour of beginning the 11th hour preparation, I was sure passing the exams will be a cakewalk. 

And pass I did. My parents were in disbelief when CBSE declared the result. They were jubilant and surprised that I had passed.  I wasn't. I knew I'd pass the moment the question papers were handed to me.

The point is, the board exams never scared me then. But in the form of nightmare, they haven't stopped bugging me even more than a decade later. It's my most recurrent dream. The only recurrent dream, actually. Board exams are approaching, I'm blank and scared to the bones. Those dreams feel real. I feel like I'm right there in the moment. I experience that dread, that agony and that nervousness. I sense the strong undercurrents of frustration (at having to opt science) and helplessness (for being pushed into opting science). The anxiety feels so real! The entire scene seems so real! Whenever I get such a dream, I wake up feeling nervous.

Thank God it's just a dream. I just fail to understand how a happy-go-lucky person like me is attracting this recurring dream. Going by my state of mind, I should be having WWE superstars and Govinda in my dreams.

[Read previous post about the nightmare, written six years ago.]

Dream no. 2: Networking for an investigative story
Now that I'm at it, let me also mention the dream I had the night before. Chhattisgarh's first chief minister, Ajit Jogi, had made a guest appearance! We were having a jolly conversation. I was demonstrating my half-baked knowledge of the Chhattisgarhi dialect with elan and he was downright amused and impressed! As I had his full attention, I told him I was planning to do a story on Balco's affairs (the aluminium factory in Chhattisgarh, where my dad worked and in whose residential township I grew up) and I'd need his quotes. 

FYI, Balco used to be a central government company, but was privatised in 2001. Ajit Jogi was the chief minister of Chhattisgarh then and had lent massive support to workers' two-month-long strike opposing the decision to privatise.

Yesterday I woke up feeling pretty cool, that even in dream the journalist in me is at work, developing contacts for a story. I just recalled, in my journalism college, our vice-dean used to reiterate that we ought to be so consumed by story ideas that they should be on our mind even when are eating and sleeping. Finally, I got there! Finally! Now I feel better!

Dream no. 3: Rockstar
Now this is a dream that I see with my eyes wide open, every waking hour. It's a dream I nurture and am committed to turning into reality. It's the dream of becoming the rockstar I'm vying to be. We're ready, just have to figure out how to start landing paid gigs. Efforts are under way. They will yield result soon. 

I can go on and on about this dream, but I'd rather go pursue it right now. That's more important. Practice beckons. After all, practice makes a rockstar perfect. Or less imperfect.

The tip for great sleep
Oh, there are way too many mosquitoes here. Mosquito repellent stuff too is proving to be impotent. At best, they merely knock mosquitoes unconscious for some time. A couple of hours later, mosquitoes regain consciousness and resume their bloodsucking routine. So, for a good sleep, I'd recommend getting a mosquito net. It's barely been four days since I started sleeping under one and am having such a sound sleep that I feel super happy, and rested, upon waking up. It's such a welcome change from the mosquito-swatting sleeping I was having all these past months. Whoever invented mosquito net, thank you!

January 07, 2017

Why I'm getting increasingly averse to chatting

It was the summer of 1999 when I got my first personal computer. I was in class VII. Back then, it was a rare thing for someone to have a computer at home. That was the time when 16-bit video games ruled the roost. So, ours was a Pentium II Zenith computer with 16 MB RAM and 3.1 GB hard disk. It ran on Windows 98. No, it wasn't the model we had paid Rs51k for. The dealer had given us an inferior model. As the one who had selected the PC based on its specifications and as the one who checked the specifications of the delivered machine, I found this out no sooner than the computer arrived. Of course, dad dismissed all the fuss I made over it and we ended up getting a raw deal.

Sorry, this para was unnecessary. This is not a blogpost about my history with computers. Maybe I should write that some day. But not today. As the title of this post says, I'm getting increasingly fed up with chatting. Primarily, because people don't bother to extend common courtesies online. I don't know why people think it's perfectly alright to leave messages unreplied.

I think it's rude. It's the virtual equivalent of you hearing me talk and then never bothering to reply. Rude, man. Be that as it may, this seems to be the norm these days. People just don't bother replying. If you can't carry a conversation forward, just acknowledge the person and tell them you'd get back to them later. Take their leave. No damage done, right? Then? What gives?

Leaving messages unanswered, I find it rude, insensitive, disrespectful, annoying. Not only it tells me you lack regards for me, it also makes me lose a bit of respect for you. If I message you and you don't reply, it puts me off. For me to message you, you have to be a friend. Or someone I'm fond of. And when you don't reply, don't even inasmuch as extend the courtesy of acknowledging me, that puts me off, man. Breaks my heart a little and sets the tone for disenchantment.

A photo posted by Hemant Gairola (@hemantgairola) on

I'm tired of this. That's why I stay off WhatsApp and Facebook. 
This is not a well thought-out post, just... Writing it because two days ago I reinstalled and reactivated WhatsApp to take baby pics and video from a dear friend, who's like family. Since I'm back on WhatsApp for the time being, I messaged some of my near and dear ones. And as is wont, it was futile to expect basic courtesies.

I don't get it. Just because you don't have to face the person doesn't mean you should take them for granted like this. Yeah, I feel bad about it. But not much anymore, since I'm used to it. But it's still upsetting. That's why it's better not to message people. The worst part is when you ask them where they have been. "Busy" is the most insulting reply. Everyone knows you were not busy. One friend told me "busy" then a day later I saw them posting random pics on Instagram, with hashtags illustrating how they are binge-posting since they have got nothing to do.

All this could very well be because I put them off and they don't want to talk to me. Makes sense. Going by the tone of this blog post alone, after reading this, one wouldn't want to engage with such a whiner. So be it. As someone who wears his heart on his sleeve, I have no qualms about expressing my feelings. Ummm... I'm a poet (a lyricist, technically speaking), for God's sake. The more I interact with people (one-sided interactions), the surer I get about not liking people anymore. 

The reason I started off writing the first para about my history with computers was that—after boasting about my early tryst with computers—I wanted to highlight how I loved chatting right from the time I was 11 years old. New to internet, I'd spend hours every day chatting with strangers from other parts of the world. And now, I don't even feel like chatting with 'friends' or people I'm fond of, since it means putting myself at the risk of being disrespected. It sucks. But so be it. 

Only another couple of months and my rockstar career will be on a roll. I'd be delighted to snub any 'well-wisher' that comes my way then.

P.S. Another reason I have come to despise chatting is some emoticons. I absolutely hate it when I say something and people answer like this: 🙄🙄🙄🙄
The rolling eyes emoji. Don't roll your eyes when I'm saying something to you. If you didn't get what I mean, ask. If you don't agree with what I said, feel free to disagree, but in an agreeable manner. No need to roll your eyes, huh. That's disrespectful. Don't be a Smart Alec with me. Be straight and simple. 

The other emoticon that pisses me off right off the bat is: 
So when I say something and you send me this, a frown appears on my face. Nobody these days folds their hands to greet or to express gratitude. So when you send me this, I wonder if you're telling me "Please, enough!" Usually I get this emoticon when I give a compliment to someone. But this response tells me that maybe you find me a phoney, which is why you're responding to my statement/compliments with sarcasm-dipped kindness. I don't know what you mean when you send me this, but I surely don't like it.

People, use words, not the caveman's communication tool. Just realised that I hate all emoticons anyway because the other person deploys them as conversation killers. If I'm saying something and you don't wish to engage me, you just send a smiley. I say something after that, you send a smiley. And in less than 15 seconds, you politely tell me to get lost. And you do it all with a smiley face. No, rather just say that you have something up your sleeve, take my leave and carry on. Don't play games.

December 26, 2016

I hate the b'day brouhaha; back to me-first

Something inside me has snapped yesterday. Growing up, I was a mean, inconsiderate and nasty kid. Unpleasant to be around. But then I stumbled upon a great book in my home, called How To Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie. Amazing, amazing book. It proposed the right way to deal with people. Full of sensible advice. I must have re-read it a dozen times or more. It's entirely due to that book that I started becoming less of a prick and made efforts to cultivate qualities like empathy, understanding and the sort. Since reading the book, I've tried to live by that code. Of late, I'm tired of being Mr Nice Guy.

Anyway, this post is not about my conduct. Yesterday happened to be the kind of unfortunate birthday that I dread. The kind where people wish me happy birthday and I stand there feeling awkward and stupid and have to utter a meaningless "thank you" while trying to hide the annoyed look on my face. Well, if you're a friend who has ever tried calling me on this day, you'd know my phone is likely to be switched off. A couple of years ago, I started keeping my phone off for the entire birthday week. While I still held a job, I'd always hope and pray that nobody there knew it's my birthday. I don't want people getting in my face to wish me f... I just don't. Leave me alone. 

Strategic time-out. Deep breaths. Breathe in... Let it out. Repeat X 5.

If you're a friend and reading this, here's the best thing you can do to me for my birthday: spare me the birthday wishes, please. Please. Let me have a usual day. That's all I ask. Not difficult, right? Just requires you to be considerate and give me my space. 

Why so, you may ask. Just because. Because I don't like it. Don't wish me a happy birthday. Period. I find it as stupid as a "Happy Diwali", "Happy Holi" or a "Happy New Year". Diwali? The day you release toxic chemicals in the environment with loud noises? What's there in it to wish me? Leave me alone. Holi? The day people manhandle friends to smear colour on them, the day hooligans assume freedom for drunken revelry? What's there in it to wish me? Leave me alone. Happy New Year? Date changes every single day. What's so great about it? I find all this superfluous. And downright stupid. But if I have the misfortune of not being in my lair during any of this festive times and am with people, I try to act normal and not to be a killjoy. Do I ever tell any of you not to celebrate whatever it is you are celebrating! No. Likewise, you shouldn't impose your ways of celebrating these days on me. 

This post is going to be a rant and might not make much sense, but so be it. The blog is called Straight From The Heart, after all. And currently, I'm bitter about this birthday. Like I said, the ideal birthday for me would be just a normal day where nobody brings the birthday up. My birthday, right? Then just let me be! Why is it so difficult! I don't want to cut any cake, I don't want to blow any candles. Blowing candles is extremely stupid anyway. You celebrate, Diwali, right? The festival of lights where we light up lamps? Light is always said to be a representation of God and all things good. Hindus have earthen lamps, Christians light candles. They light. They don't put off the flame. Isn't it stupid to blow off candles and welcome darkness? I find it stupid. Pointless.

What gives?
Why should I blow a candle and cut a cake? What gives? Does it make me healthier? Does it make me taller, stronger, sharper? Wealthier? Wiser? What's the point?

I don't like to do something just for the heck of it, just because everyone does it. That's why I never felt like smoking or drinking. People start off with these things mainly to get high or to look cool. How I always looked at it, right from the time I was a stupid teenager, was that smoking harms your lungs and affects your health and drinking makes your behave like an idiot, and affects your health. They don't make me better in any manner. Why do it then! Exactly, don't do it. So I never did it. Friends and colleagues insisted many times, their insistence always met with a firm no. If I don't see a point in it, I don't do it.

Likewise, Diwali is a festival of lights. I don't like crackers and all. Had stopped bursting crackers at the age of 13 itself because I found reason in my dad's contention that it involves child labour, is a sheer wastage of money for momentary thrill and pollutes. Meditators understand the spiritual importance of Diwali, Holi and other festivals and try to harness the energies that are at a peak during these days. That makes sense. Revelry, show-off etc that passes off in the name of festivals... I don't buy it. It's not for me. 

Makes me cringe
Make no mistake, I acknowledge that I am leading a fortunate existence. I'm grateful for it and excited at all the achievements that can be mine if only I keep trying. It's good to be alive and great to be me. I'm striving to make my entire life a celebration. But I don't get the point of celebrating birthday. It's like, on this day you are forcing me to burst crackers while colours are smeared and I'm not even allowed to protest. It makes me cringe. When you wish me a happy birthday, I don't feel happy. I merely grin and bear it. I feel stupid, uncomfortable and awkward. No, leave me alone. Please leave me alone. Let it just pass by like an ordinary day. No mention of the word birthday in my context, please.

Next year onwards, I'll be holed up in my home and not be anywhere else, with anyone else. Having to honour other people's idea of how my birthday should go comes at the cost of my inner happiness. Leaves me annoyed.

Awful 29th b'day
Yesterday was particularly awful in this regard. I was under the impression that my Facebook profile was lying deactivated. I had indeed deactivated it a week ago, but a smartphone app on which we have to login using Facebook profile... This proved to be the culprit. When I used this app after deactivating the profile, it automatically activated my Facebook without informing or alerting me. It's only in the evening that I learnt my Facebook profile was active. This annoyed the hell out of me. (I usually refrain using words such as "hell", but am so annoyed with this stupid birthday that I can let go of some sensibilities for this blogpost at least.) Seven people had posted birthday wishes on my wall, seeing which three other friends with whom I was chatting on Instagram and Hike (only because they didn't know it was my b'day) too became aware of it and conveyed their wishes. Way too annoying. Oh God!

It might not make sense to you and it doesn't have to. One simple funda: My life, my rules.

Pointless brouhaha
Then, I don't understand the brouhaha over birthday. What's so special? There are more than seven billion people in the world. So what's the distinction in being born? If anything, a person's birthday is their mother's achievement. She nursed the baby in her womb for 36 long weeks, many of which must have been sickening, nauseating and painful. What did you do? Just glided out of the womb naked and bald, something so uneventful that you don't even remember. I don't even remember being born. Do you? Then what are you celebrating? (No, don't tell me, actually.)

I'm not one to turn down compliments when they are due and merited. Whenever a reporter would tell me that I edit well, I'd say proudly say "Yeah", nodding my head as a smirk would grace my face. Amused at my reaction when she paid the compliment, one reporter in my last office told me I should say "Thank you" instead of "Yeah". Hahaha... The point is, I lap up compliments and wishes when they make sense to me. When people congratulated me for a witty headline or a story well-edited, a news package well-presented, I'd say thanks and bask in the glory. If my favourite song Pari wins recognition tomorrow, I'll be lapping up compliments like a proud creator. 

But a "Happy birthday"? Please no. 

I have decided that next year on, I'll remain holed up in my house from at least 23rd to 28th. 

On your b'day
Yeah, I'd merrily play ball when it's someone else's birthday and people are celebrating. I don't want to be a killjoy or a sourpuss. I'd play along, we'll do it your way. I just hope that people I'm gonna be surrounded by in my life get this concept and do it my way when my b'day arrives and I have the misfortune of being around people. Let's hope such a situation doesn't arrive again.

After failing to guard myself from these unsolicited "Happy birthdays", I was getting pissed off as it is yesterday. Upon learning at night that my Facebook page too was active and people had been posting birthday wishes there, I got even more annoyed. Deactivated it and tried to go off to sleep, but was so annoyed that didn't even have a proper sleep. Been writing this instead of honing my guitaring because I need to vent out. 

Goodbye, Nice Guy
And I'm done playing the good guy. My young, mean, nasty version might have been a nuisance to others, but I remember being happy and content. Now, in my effort to play nice, to accommodate others' feelings and wishes, I have to compromise on my wishes. Done. Enough. We don't get any brownie points for being nice any way. And who am I trying to kid! I was not born a nice guy. It was an acquired persona, a cultivated set of qualities. And being nice doesn't pay. Your kindness is taken for your weakness. People don't even find you worthy of a decent excuse and merely say they were "busy" to explain unreplied messages. To hell with them. I'm done being kind and considerate. I'm done being a "we" person, it's back to being the "me" person. You have a problem with that, go cry in a corner. I don't give a damn. Not anymore.

What! 29?
Yesterday I turned 29 and started my 30th year. Damn! That is such a big number! But again, it's just a number. Mentally/emotionally, I'm still stuck at the high-school level. Still get recurring nightmares about an impending class XII board exams. Having finally decided to shed the burden of being nice (which has been a thankless, fruitless endeavour anyway), I feel relieved. 

Different, not weird
There's a friend who'd lash out on me for being incommunicado on my birthday, would call me weird and all. Weird? I'd rather say I'm different. Sure, I don't want to be like anyone else. I was born to be me, to live my life the way I want to, not to suit anyone else's ideas. I have no qualms in saying I'm not regular. No, sir. I'm special! I'm not ordinary. I'm extraordinary. I wasn't born to be the average Joe. I'm me and it's pretty awesome. Nobody can love like I do or care like I do or give like I do. I have my eccentricities, but it's a part of the package. I'm me, that's what makes me tick. But I'm sure as heavens worth putting up with.

"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment." —Ralph Waldo Emerson

August 07, 2016

Recounting a mashup dream

I don't understand how my dreams are so absurdly random. If I could dream your dream, I would, because I want to know if yours too are this ludicrous.

Once, when I was a pre-teen or in my early teens, I had a dream that my sister and I are playing just outside our house in our township. I'm sliding down the flight of stairs that leads to the ground floor. Then suddenly a tiger pounces towards us. I'm scared to the bones and run for my life. So does my sister. But can anyone outrun a tiger? One leap—or two, I don't remember—and it stood in front of us, blocking our path. This pisses my sister off. She stops running and confronts the tiger. Not to fight with it, but to give it an earful in Hindi, complaining that it can't leap/jump/hop in this game if it wants to play with us. The tiger was not happy as the stipulation stripped him of this advantage. And in the dream, I was (a) relieved because the wild beast was not going to kill us, and (b) flummoxed because the tiger knew and spoke Hindi and wanted to play with us.

It just occurred to me that this, perhaps, is the oldest dream I remember. Hmmm... But yes, this is far from the most irrational. I have those dreams every once in a while where people from my college life or office life, including those I have never spoken with, would show up in the place I grew up and get involved in situations with me that are totally bizarre. Mind-boggling mish-mash. I once had Robert Vadra in my dream, talking to me about something in our Dehradun house. When I was in Bangalore, I had a dream that I'm being given a makeover for a fashion shoot. I categorise it as bizarre because I was being decked up as a woman. Long hair, light green colour satin salwar suit, make-up, heels. Vividly remember it. I get stupid dreams all the time.

The reason I am writing about last night's dream is that it was... Whom am I kidding! Because I saw my estranged daughter in my dream once again. Haha... Yes, I have a daughter. Almost 32 months older than I am. Haha... She's a dear friend whom I love too much and am so protective of. When she used to get annoyed with my overbearing concern, I used to explain (mind you, explain, not justify) it by keeping my hand on my heart and telling her it's a mother's heart. I did this antic a few times and she eventually warmed up to it. I was now her mom! Hahaha... Not every guy gets to experience the joys of motherhood! It was great, getting the privilege to love her and be her family. To be able to extend love and care was a priceless gift.

But as is wont, we fell apart. (I use the word "wont" because there's a pattern in my life. Every girl I become good friends with, we fall apart. No exception yet.) And we fell apart for good. A couple of months ago, she and her husband became parents of a beautiful, little girl that is her replica. Such a delightful occasion! I became a grandmom, after all! Hahaha...

It sucks that I was not a part of all this. It sucks that I'll never again be a part of her life and will not be able to hold the li'l baby in my arms. It sucks that she won't do susu-potty on me. I am eager to know how my friend, my daughter came to terms with the daily phenomenon of susu-potty-fart-burp-puking, something that's a part of every new parent's life. She's prickly about hygiene. It's only because of her throwing a fit every time I sat to eat without washing my hands that I... Ok, no. I still don't wash my hands if it's only rice that I'm having, as I use a spoon. But yeah, I did buy a bottle of sanitiser because of her, and it's quite handy. So how's this hygiene-conscious girl managing being peed on, having to clean potty multiple times a day? Ah, I'm missing so much!

Digression alert! This post was to be about the dream, not about somebody I used to know.

The mindless, mashup dream
Yeah, so from what I remember, this dream featured my sister and I again, in the township where we grew up. Outside the Experts' Club there. She was in some high-tech, futuristic super car at some distance from me. From the opposite direction, some Terminator-like assassin was fast approaching in a similar car. I was scared for my life. (Why is this dream similar to the tiger dream from childhood?) I told my sister I feared that guy and planned to run away. She advised against it, saying something like father has asked not to go. As it was a grave situation, I told her I'd give his instruction a pass this time. I ran and sat into my own futuristic car, which was parked only a few metres away. I took off, accelerating to the top speed within a few seconds of switching the ignition on. The Terminator guy was right on my heels.

It was a brown car. Dark brown. Mine, not his. In this chase, I could see my car like you'd see it in a car-racing game, like Need For Speed. So I'm driving at a tearing speed. Suddenly that video game-like view is replaced by the kind of view you'd see if you're actually driving. I'm concerned. Why did the view change? I fiddle with I don't know what, and it turns out that now I'm not in a car but merely running on the road in my township. The road is unusually crowded for a residential colony that my township is. The Terminator nabbed me. Only, turned out that he too was not in that futuristic, Transformer-type car I had first seen him in. He was on a motorcycle. Hero Honda Splendor or Passion something. And it was not that cold-blooded, poker-faced assassin I had first assumed it was. It was my school friend's neighbour whose default words are, "Chalo na, baithte hain." (Meaning, "Let's sit for a drink.") I too am friendly with this guy, in real life, but in the dream he held me by my collar and commanded me to come with him. I tried to talk myself out of it, but it didn't seem to work out. 

Same dream, different track
I say "seem to" instead of being sure because what happened next in the dream was a detour. Or track change. The whole Terminator chase thing is gone. Now my father is driving a car and I'm on the backseat. In our Balco township. On the same road where my sister had advised me not to flee. On this road, which leads to home from the Expert's Club, I'm looking out of the window. I spot a car in front of me. There are three women on the backseat and both are attending to the one in the middle, who looks like she's in pain. I notice that the middle one's clothes are the same as what my daughter is wearing in the lovely WhatsApp DP of her husband. My gaze is fixed at that woman. As she turns her face sideways, turns out that she is indeed my daughter! Their car stops in the lane where we live, bang in front of the block where my house is. My father happens to stop our car right behind where she is standing. Now there's no way I can get down without us seeing each other.

As I'm getting down, I'm thinking to myself if I should acknowledge her or just turn and walk away, given the bad blood between us. With the uncertainty prevailing, I get down and our gaze meets, we exchange formal pleasantries and she tells me that she had another baby 12 days after she had a daughter. In fact, they had brought the new baby home just now. I was like, "Hey, do you remember that when you had given me the news that you're gonna become a mom, I had asked if you're going to have twins?" (I had actually asked her that in real life.) She remembered me asking it and said she herself didn't know there'd be another baby. This one is unsually small, btw. We were wondering that her kids must be the only set of twins with a gap of 12 days between their birth.

And then I woke up. Phew! What irrational dreams I get! This has to be the second time I dreamt of my estranged friend in a fortnight. Really, sucks to have fallen apart. But snapping ties was the right thing to do. Well, the show must go on. We must move on.

This has been a rather long post. But it's OK. It's good to indulge myself every once in a while. Will skip my penchant to end articles with a one-liner because I have pressing tasks at hand. Like becoming the rockstar I'm meant to be.

March 02, 2016

Explaining my 'D' grades in reporting

In previous blogposts, I've pulled no punches in dissing reporters who habitually turn in shoddy work. As a sub-editor and a perfectionist, seeing those pathetic non-stories would make me cringe, much like chalkboard scraping. I'd give myself full marks (and an extra for the passion) as a sub-editor, but how good a reporter would I have made?

When I was learning the tricks of the trade in my J-school, we were required to go out to report once a week. I always dreaded that day. When the day would arrive, my usual chirpy self would transform into a nervous, quiet guy. To get a story, one is required to speak with a lot of people. That's what always proved to be my undoing. 

Having to approach strangers almost always left me jumpy. I once went to the office of the forest department, but couldn't bring myself to enter it as the board on its entrance read visitors were allowed only after 3 pm. For one story I needed to speak with random people on the street. I couldn't do that. In my first job, my editor asked me to do a small story. I went to the municipal office, but got cold feet and returned without speaking with anybody. 

In my J-school, this weakness got the better of me. In both the semesters, I got 'D' grades in the core elective of 'Reporting & Writing'. I'm surprised I didn't get an 'E'. Towards the end of our course, I was put on probation and a letter was sent to my parents, stating I needed to pull up my socks if I didn't want to fail. I've no idea how I passed, but I hope this is a good enough indication of how bad the situation can get.

I don't know how or why I turn this timid sometimes. Diametrically opposite of foot-in-the-door journalist. I become heart-in-the-mouth journalist. It leaves me feeling small, under-confident and annoyed. 

The chickenheart/dragonheart dichotomy
It's not that I'm always this feeble person. When I was interning with The Hindu, I did so well as a reporter that I was asked to extend my internship by a month, at the end of which they offered me a job. When I'm at it, I'm really good.

Currently, I'm in that too-meek-to-report phase. I've got this wonderful freelancing opportunity to keep my journalism career alive as I cut my teeth as a musician. I've got five story ideas, two of them super relevant and too interesting. Every day I vow that tomorrow I shall call up or visit the people I need to interview, but I'm finding it so daunting that it's getting stalled forever. 

It's not that I lack confidence in general or am wary of confrontation. I had famously put my foot down when our infamous, no-nonsense college director tried to browbeat us into shelling out 10k for a stupid Kerala trip. I had stood up for my gal pals when a busful of hostile locals in Bangalore were ganging up against them. I had given a 'reveller' a chase after he had tried groping my friend after a New Year party. I'm not a wuss. Only, at times I become one. And this is clearly one of those times.
I don't want to be a loser. Right now, I'm being one. I find it strange that I'm prone to hitting such lows. Glad that I know it's all in my hands. I might not understand why it is the way it is, but I've got my eyes on the prize. Gonna get there anyhow.

My current assessment
Coming back to the heart of this post. How good am I as a reporter? A reporter is as good as his last story. My last story would have been way better if I were not being such a wimp. It's still good, but not great. Underwhelming. Me as a reporter? I suck. A brilliant writer, but a featherweight reporter. 

I want to change that. For someone who wants to earn the moniker of "a reporter who rocks", I gotta party hard and work harder. Oh, I need to work on my partying too, but that's another blogpost.

February 27, 2016

Don't believe Indian media's lies on JNU row

It's unsettling how baseless media reports have whipped up mass hysteria over the JNU/anti-national saga.1. Umar...
Posted by Hemant Gairola on Friday, 26 February 2016