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.