Jul 22, 2014

The Leeloo Dallas Multipass memory

The movie 'The Fifth Element' came out nearly 17 years ago. A cult classic, this fun sci-fi movie revolved around a very interesting premise.

Fearing a great evil that kept recurring on Earth every few centuries, aliens collected four essential elements (representing air, water, fire and land) which when combined with 'the fifth element' in the form of a human would create a divine light that could ward off the evil and save Earth. Afraid of how mankind would use such a weapon if it were left in their hands, the aliens took it with them promising to return when the time came. Eventually, as the time neared, they did dutifully return only to be ambushed by people aligned with the planet-destroying evil, with only a limb of the fifth element surviving the crash.

From that limb, the fifth element was recreated by docs on Earth in the form of a 'perfect woman' (Milla Jovovich) who while being agile and strong, did not know anything about her surroundings. Her chance encounter with a taxi cab driver (played to perfection by the Bruce Willis, laying on the charm and wit that was his trademark from the old 'Moonlighting' days) and his earnest assistance to help her succeed in finding the other four elements to save the world formed the crux of this space opera.

Leeloo Dallas Multpass: Me fifth element - supreme being. Me protect you. 

While watching the news the past few days, all I saw was murder. Genocide, assaults, air strikes... call it whatever you want but in the end, it was just murder. Some did it for land. Others did it for religion. Some did it for fun even. Perhaps even more disturbing were the images I did not see. The 'powers of the world' and the media whose moral duty it was to help notify them of wrongdoing just sat mum and refused to acknowledge it as innocent children were used as target practice and commercial planes were struck down for no apparent reason but to cause death to people who could not defend themselves.  

And suddenly, I was brought back to this movie which I had seen decades ago. A scene in the movie  which had lodged itself subconsciously in my mind back then, had been turned on again in my mind's eye.

It is that moment when the only woman who could save the world clicks on an information terminal and types in the word 'WAR'. As she watches the history of Earth and all that we have committed in the name of mankind, she breaks down and cries. When the time comes, she refuses to save the world.

Leeloo Dallas Multipass: "What's the use in saving life when you see what you do with it?"

Jul 18, 2014

The Athens agenda: A Snoopikus mystery

I put the cassette into the old cassette player and hit the Play button. Instantly a familiar voice enveloped the room.
“Good morning, agents Roshan and Snoopy. There has been a development. The head of IMF has lost a valuable family heirloom. Intel indicates that it is in Athens right now.. Your mission should you choose to accept it: Find and intercept said package. Mission NIYAN-LATAOST depends upon you. Travel expenses have been added into your account. This message will self-destruct in 5-4-3-2…”

The voice petered away with a mild fizzle. I turned to agent Snoopy. He sat there with a bored look, chewing the cassette player nonchalantly.
“Sigh. I will never understand how they allowed you into the IMF. We are a covert organization which only takes in individuals of high intelligence, acumen and impeccable credentials. How did you get in?”
The dog looked up at me with those evil eyes as he flossed his teeth with the cassette tape. “Beagle quota.” He said, simply walking away with his tail in the air.

I shook my head and logged onto my regular travel site. “Mumbai to Athens.” I typed in the search section. The rate came up on the screen after a minute. Hmm… sounds reasonable enough. “Snoopy, I’m going to book my ticket, okay? You will have to come via the cargo container in a box, I’m afraid.”
Agent Snoopy strolled back into the room with a grin. “Please check your mobile.” I checked the newly received message.
“In view of unexpected fall in revenue owing to decreased sales of fluorescent lungis in the second quarterly, the International Mallu Federation (C) cannot provide you funds beyond Rs 1 lakh for Mission NIYAN-LATAOST. Also the dog is in charge for this mission. Obey him.”

“WHAT?? This is nonsense. I should take orders from you?” I stare at him defiantly.
“After the fiasco you created when you chose the jersey colours for our ill-fated Mallu IPL team, they felt that I was more suited to the task.” He replied. I grumbled as he sat on my chair. One poor colour scheme choice and I was branded for life!

“Watch this,” he said, logging onto another site. Skyscanner.co.in , I read as he typed with his pudgy paws. He typed in the same date and destination I had typed in earlier and we watched as the results showed up on screen.
“Big deal. It’s the same flight. We could have booked it from my site.”
“Yes,” he said with a smile. “The exact same flight.” He then pointed at the screen. I stared at the two pages side by side.

A certain famous travel planning website offers a best of 60k.

Skyscanner offers the same for well... see it for yourself.

The exact same flight. Both ways. Only available for nearly Rs 13,000/- less at his Skyscanner site. “This is why I’m in charge.” He guffawed as he clicked to book our tickets and I stormed away in anger.

Jul 11, 2014

The strongest one

The first time I saw her, she was the least fascinating of the three people in the room to me. Her elderly mother stood by the window sill, her eyes focused on some object beyond the building wall; her mind perhaps even further away. She did not even notice me open the door and enter. On the bed in the centre of the room sat the person I had come to meet- a young man who immediately frowned when he sensed my presence next to him; he had been around my kind before and he knew that it would be awhile before he could leave this unfamiliar building. I use the term ‘sensed’ because he could not possibly see me.
At the tender age of twenty one, he had turned blind.

If our destinies are determined by some divine game of Russian roulette, he had not been granted any favours, I thought to myself, having seen his file before I entered the room. You see, he suffered from congenital rubella syndrome – a disease that afflicted him while he was still within his mother’s womb. It had left its mark on him forever though, both within and without. He was deaf in both ears, had a defect in his heart, suffered from stunted growth and diminished intellectual capacity.

And now his last window to the world – his eyes – had betrayed him too.

The young woman beside him stood up as I entered and nodded with a tired smile. As I asked questions about his signs and symptoms, she answered them with an intelligence that suggested she knew the intricacies of the disease well. I noted that he responded to her touch as she spoke, holding her hand tight and finding comfort in the knowledge of her presence around him.

Jul 8, 2014

To boldly go where no phone has gone before

In the late 90s, watching people walking around with flip phones and talking while walking on the streets was a sign of a higher status. It was THE modern gadget of the day unlike the traditional phones back at home where we placed our fingers on each number and rotated the dial for each number individually to call somebody. The mobile was a cool gadget that could actually fit in our pockets. We did not have to by heart phone numbers anymore! Or need a calendar to see the date! It even had an alarm clock, by Toutatis!
It was something new. It was the future.

Of course, even on the planet Xorg, the caller tune was 
Himesh Reshammiya's 'Tandoori Nights' by default  
Except for one small detail… you see, Captain James T Kirk and his crew had been using that same device on his ship during the 1960’s iconic show “Star Trek.”
The 60’s, mind you, when we had yet to land on the moon.

The flip phone had never been the future. It was just the culmination of a long wait – between what was imagined and what was created. It took three decades but mobile companies finally made the iconic Star Trek Communicator into a device that could be used by ordinary people everywhere in the world.
Other aspects of ‘science fiction’ from the show would eventually become an everyday reality, including:
1)      Handsfree talking  aka Bluetooth devices.
2)      Hypospray non-invasive medical syringes aka Jet injectors.
3)      Non invasive scanners aka MRI / CT machines.
4)      Universal translators aka Google!
5)      Video conferencing.
6)      Virtual reality goggles.
7)      Date storage devices that could hold ‘gigabytes’ of information ( Pen drives anyone?)
8)      Voice command activation and 
9)      GPS  

All this was part of a show based in the 60s and was considered unbelievable technology nearly half a century ago. And yet, it is a reality today.
Today’s phones are a breed apart, of course. You can book tickets for trains, planes or just plain movies, see the weather in Timbuktu and get the latest news from a World Cup a continent away as it happens. You can become an instant chef with recipes or learn to fly a plane via flight simulator games. You can make new friends and keep in touch with old ones too across the globe without having to depend on air mail or carrier pigeons (which is technically air mail again, when you think about it!)

So when you ask me, what additional super power I would like to give my phone, I don’t need to think ahead into the future and make up some bizarre unlikely new concept. I just need to look back and revisit the adventures of the star ship Enterprise to see what could be a reality in the days to come. And while certain features like being able to create food just by saying the name does sound tantalizing, I think I know exactly what feature I would want my phone to possess.

In today’s world, we are all connected via our mobile to each other. But sadly, we cannot be with those we love all the time because as the gadgets bring us closer, real life moves us afar. We find our friends and family scattered across not a state anymore or even a country but often across various continents. Sure, social media platforms and the sound of their voice can be a relief but is it the same as being with them, sharing a joke face to face or going out for dinner together? Not in my books.

And that is why my phone would include the much needed feature of a transporter.

You're making two minute Maggi noodles? I'll be there in one. 
For those of you wondering, in the show, the transporter machine converted people or objects into energy and beamed them down instantly to another location where they would be converted back into their original form.

Can you imagine the benefits of this feature? 

Jul 6, 2014

The ones who never get applauded

A scene I witnessed while waiting
at the railway station

That auto driver is not Neymar or Messi. 
He is not Modi or Rahul. 
He is not a superstar and will never feature in any newspaper. 

He is, however, the only auto driver who stopped to help an old man struggling to walk who had been trying unsuccessfully to hail an auto rickshaw (at an auto stand, no less). Unlike the other drivers who felt it would be too much of a burden for them to make an extra effort for an old man with a walker, this guy got down, helped lift the old man into his rickshaw and then placed the walker on his own side so that the old man could sit more comfortably. 

My hometown is usually associated with violence. It feels good to see random acts of kindness as well. 

Jun 28, 2014

Snoopy - A Dogyear later

*Phone rings*
Me: Hello.
Voice: This is Blah Blah Couriers. We have a parcel for you. Where does your house come exactly?
Me: Do you know Saint Micheals School? From there you take the first right and then ask around.
Voice: Ask what?
Me: You can ask for me, the name in the courier. Haven’t you heard of me?
Voice: (pauses to read name on parcel) No sir.
Me: I’m an internationally famous* author.        (*in my house only.)
Voice: Sorry. Never heard of such a name.
Me: I’m a big doctor and all, you know.
Voice: No sir. Never heard of you.
Me: You must be new to this town. I’m actually a big celebrity in…
Voice: OH WAIT! This is that beagle’s house. I’ve been here. You are that fat guy who was trying to chase that funny beagle after it stole your chappal. Hahaha… yes yes. Now I got it.
Me: ….
Voice: Hello? Hello? Anybody there?
Me: (in a low menacing voice) Just bring the damn parcel!

Snoopy completed one year at our house last week. We have had pet dogs for nearly 27 years as far as I can recall, each with their own unique personality traits and yet nothing like this guy.
Snoopy came to us at a time of despair when we had lost a lot in our lives and the recent loss of 14 year old Ruby had all but devastated us. We needed someone to love and bring laughter back into our lives and where our own species proved less reliable, this petulant four legged dynamo took up the challenge. Right from the beginning, his antics were just hilarious – he refused to be scared of us and took the warnings of a raised stick as a playful challenge, running past us to commit the crime once more.  

beagle time

Chappals and laptop adaptors were chewed and mangled. He would/still does observe the location where my dad rearranges the soil and places seeds for gardening and waits for him to leave before promptly going there, digging up the seeds and placing my dad’s cap/muffler inside that spot.

He’s eco-friendly too. You can’t dispose of anything from the house. He immediately assumes that we are playing fetch with him and hence it becomes his new toy. I’d already shared the video of “the tree” with you all… there’s also the curious incident of the dog who walks around the house with a paint bucket to add to that now!

One easy way to identify him is of course, by the presence of a chew toy bone in his mouth. Where ever he walks, he carries it with him as though he were an aristocrat with a smoking pipe in his mouth. The only thing missing is a silk bathrobe I guess! My parents found it hilarious how every evening he would turn up at my dad’s feet demanding to have an apple. I found it cute… till I realized he knew I was a doctor! The “apple a day…” bit does not seem amusing to me anymore and seems like a subtle threat in fact now!!

Jun 10, 2014

Who's gonna win the FIFA 2014 World Cup?

And so it finally begins.
The FIFA 2014 World Cup is finally here and if you thought IPL got people excited, you have to see the frenzy here in Kerala. Flags of Brazil and Argentina are flying high and banners proclaiming allegiance to Italy and England are visible across many streets.

This time around, I'm personally not so confident about who is gonna win the cup - there are many underdogs who are performing well and a few heavyweights who seem to be faltering as the countdown to the tournament begins. Is it going to be the consistency of a group effort ( a la Spain in 2010 / Italy in 2006 ) or the magic of an individual ( Ronaldo in 2002 / Baggio in 1994 ) that will be the decisive factor in this one?
Teams I've got my eyes on include:
  • Germany ( Consistent performers, ruthless attacking line up. )
  • Brazil ( Better suited to home conditions than Europeans, good attacking line up. )  
  • Spain ( Winners of Euro 2008, FIFA 2010 and Euro 2012.)
  • Netherlands ( Always under-performing... perhaps their time has come. )
  • Argentina ( Again, a formidable attack. )
  • Wild cards:  France, Portugal, Uruguay, Belgium. 

It says a lot that I'm not considering the two World Cup winners from the Group of Death, namely Italy and England. The fact is their pre-World Cup warm up matches have hardly inspired any confidence even among their own fans. 
Anyway, I thought I'd make it fun for all those who drop by the blog and give them something to root for while they cheer their teams. So here are my questions for you:

Jun 9, 2014

" I - An anthology "

After a brief hiatus, I'm back on the "my short story got published" bandwagon.

FirstStep PavingWays publishers

Featured in FirstStep PavingWays "I - An anthology", this one differs from most of the stories I've written over the last 12 months because it is based on a true story. The publishers looked to see how various authors in India would use the simple premise of the word "I" to narrate a tale (The book cover itself plays upon that theme, with the word "I" shown in various languages).
It seems ironic that it took a long time for me to return back to the 'medical / true story' genre... it was the first genre of mine which had got published back in 2011 ( Chicken Soup for the Indian Doctor's Soul ) and motivated me to carry on writing, leading to more published stories.

"The Girl without a Face" is based on a true story about a young teenage girl I treated in the hospital and how her circumstances, her attitude and her determination affected me as the days progressed. As it is with most medicine based stories, there are no villains here other than circumstances; no heroes here except hope... and the will power of a young girl.

I love that the publishers dedicated individual pages to each author. It would have been so easy to just ignore it (and even the authors themselves) as most Indian anthologies do but to see this is truly heartening for the contributing authors. Perhaps even better is that there is a page dedicated to all the authors in the book at their blog as well.

I - An anthology
Every author gets his own page too inside the book... how lovely is that?

As I type this, the book has already gone out of stock at Infibeam which had a slightly better discount, I noticed. 
Anyway, here are the links to buy it from Amazon , Flipkart and Infibeam
I sincerely hope you enjoy this book.