Names & Numerals

Truth be told, my math (amongst many other things that can go without mention) isn’t top notch. Well, let me put it mildly that way, and leave it there. But whatever little understanding that I have had around math was ably aided by scanning number plates and their three / four digit numbers on licnece plates.

As a kid, vehicle license plates and their three/ four numbers that Indian number plates had, held sway over my attention. Permutations, combinations, additions, multiplications on were best matched by a keen interest in automobiles!

That fancy for number plates, I discovered has remained ever so dormant. That discovery happened because the dormancy was disturbed, in the US !

While most plates were of the regular alpha numeric variety, there were some else that that arched the eyebrow, evinced a laugh or even evoked sympathy in human condition. When none of that happened, it plain popped the eye out !

Thus scanning of number plates of vehicles that were passing wasn’t just another passing interest but quickly ascending ( the missus calls it ‘ descending’) into a profound obsession that I could have easily passed for a car jacker or an insurance surveyor or a cop!

Some elementary macro dissection of the number plate. The full name of the state is present in a particular font. You are allowed to have symbols, alphabets and letters. The plate could get a different hue depending on a ‘theme’ ( for want of a better word ). ” A memorial ‘theme’ ” could get you a different background on your plate than what a “Olympic training center’theme’ ” could get. Or even ones that are ‘themed’ after a college / university that you went to.

A portion of the fee thats collected goes to that college / Olympic training center etc ( the list is long and myriad ). In case it interests you more than this, the list is here. And in the larger scheme of things, $ 75 per anum, well, seems ok !

Every spotting of a car with a fancy plate got the heart to beat a trifle faster. Sometimes evoking a strain on the neck to see the full plate or look at the driver to reconfirm deepest suspicions or just about see if the driver was for real !

On another note, these license plates while giving me new vocabulary, haven’t quite helped my math much. The closest that I came to math computation was spotting and counting ‘5Punjab’ ‘6Punjab’ ‘7Punjab’ ! That was elementary, even by my own towering mathematical standards ! Nevertheless, Name plates that beamed from BMWs and tangoed from the Toyotas stood out on Californian roads. !

Which brings me to another subject. The Hindustan Times speaks of number plates in Delhi that is going for as high as Rs.5 lakhs ( $ 11,200 )! All for a string of numbers. Imagine what creativity can be unleashed , if the US style is adopted. And of course, imagine the money spinner that it can become!

Sporting stylish license will become a super cool thing. Ad gurus will start specializing in it. Artists will thrive. Mainstream media will have a program going for it. And like all other sundry programs including the weather report, millions will stream to watch it.

Occasionally, or rather, frequently, some Sam in a whimsical mood to impress his wife or make up with her, could have his name plate bearing “SamYAni”. That could get the moral police up in arms for “public display of affection” or some such convoluted interpretation of a some archaic rule that caught a Britishers fancy many eons ago.

Of course, there would be protests and prime time national coverage with four blokes having a shouting match and the winner being the one with highest decibel levels!

I mean, just imagine, how many salaries can this number plate rule pay. It can bring about a change in the economy, I say !

Ah, but I digress. As usual. The number plate I so strained to capture on camera but with very little success was of this lady on a Harley Davidson, as she whooshed pass us. Her plate just said : ‘O Not Hiz’

Malware !

“I want this job”. How many times has that feeling visited your gut ? In recent times.

Ok. Lets keep out Sean Connery or Pierce Brosnan emerging out of water with…. hmm hmm… guns. No, thats not part of this brief.

That feeling hit me. Recently.

In the middle of a swank mall, a group moves about. Carrying advertisements on their back. For a brand of chewing gum. The product is inconsequential, for they could have been promoting toilet cleaners or dry cleaners. The important element was a certain rhythm in their motion !

When i saw them move, i thought I would like that job. You may wonder why.

It was simple ! I would get to see SOME sights. Mall sights !

Of uninterested husbands digging into their blackberry as though it were a device that was stopping planet Earth from imploding. The eager boyfriend variety who buy ( & carry ) the basket to the bread.

The wailing kid who rolls on the ground for everything from the sun to the shoe rack, and test the sound proofing of the Bose showroom.

Sights of eager diners. Chomping on a mix of Mexican curry and malai kofta with etiquette sounding like a bad word in a foreign language. The girls with looks that would kill and the boys with hairstyles that tantamount to murder.

How wonderful will it be. To walk around the mall and NOT BUY !!! No guilt at all. A clear bonus with some exercise for the legs ! That would be a clear bonus. Hmm. I want that job. Really !

Perhaps i will befriend a nice store sales girl who could let me in on intricacies of managing a large store and attendant problems. Of discounts and devious customers. Serious fraud committed with a straight face. Am talking of the discounts here ! The schemes and the scheming !

Wouldn’t it be plain wonderful. To just walk around a mall. Floor by floor. In a formation, that’s befits a fighter pilot squadron. A squadron with no intention of bombing territory or even planning very valorous actions, like piloting the President.

Wouldn’t it be fun to gloriously walk around. Aimlessly soaking up the sights. Following the chap ahead. With whole world as the audience ! The world inside the mall that is ! .

Perhaps in a corner, i might even spot a wistful nitwit. Clicking snaps of cauliflowers and the corner store on a mobile phone.

Bemused look, balding head and bulging middle not withstanding, pontificating on garbage and trophies with an air of a Somali pirate, holding a Saudi oil tanker hostage !!

One look at us walking the floor with the ads on our back would perhaps cause him to wonder about state of the human kind. Able men doing an aimless job. A job that was relegated to the realms of steel, vinyl and lighting of the advertising billboard !

Such types cant get a clue of the fun. Or the pocket money that it gets us. Walking the mall. Selling some ware. The sights, sounds and smells of mall-ware !

From Above. From Below.

On Mumbai’s marine drive, theres an exhibition thats on. Awesome. Is the word. Its titled ‘ Earth from Above‘. A series of stunning photographs. A collage from up above.

The setting is perfect too. With the Arabian sea on one side and a bustling army of cars, bikes and people to provide the contrast, on the other.

Perfect time to look at the big picture. The pictures are work of a creative mind at its best.

Talking of creative human minds, there is more to be done. Whatever are those scientist folks doing ? With all those gadgets and goatees that, whatever are they doing ?

Especially, for cases like this one. Read on.

An apartment complex that is home to a myriad set of people. Like…Hmm.. educated from the best of universities the world can offer. The best of designations the corporate world can conjure.

Cars that can swallow the economy and bank accounts that seem perpetually overflowing. Computers that run the household and household helps who pay obeisance to the family dog.

All in all, if this set of people were reduced to a single drop of petrol, they could keep an empty fuel tank power a world trip. Twice. That kind of power. You get the drift… ?

That type of an apartment complex. And this was the announcement on the notice board !

Hope the scientist folks are still listening. They need to come up with several things for this apartment.

But where do they start ? What work can science do, when common sense and basic sensitivity go on exile.

Perhaps these are the signs of our times. A time for extremes. New frontiers get broken as new inventions hit the market at speeds that only the sun tries to compete with.

New markets get created, as existing land disappears. A time when the Internet brings us all closer even as we as people get divided further.

A time, when those that coast in luxury are epitomes of ‘uncivil’ and the actions of the ‘educated’ take us back a few hundred years.

A time where the beauty of the Earth from the sky is only contrasted by our actions on the ground ! Actions, that which we inflict on one another and on ourselves too.

The opportunity to keep our Earth pristine is omnipresent. The choices are ours to make. And in this apartment’s case, the choice starts with the dustbin !

Looking at and away !

I sit there. In that red seat. Sweating. Huffing. Gasps of air escape my mouth. Steady streams of sweat appear from nowhere and fill all of my forehead, face, shirt and all else. I have just completed a 3 KM run. And in record time. ( And that means that a time has been recorded, nothing else).

My tryst with the treadmill in the gym continues.

I look up. And look around. Thoughts race in my mind, as the lungs hoover-up all the oxygen, and the tired legs pine for rest, just like a hero in a bollywood song. All of strange wails and deep pain : exhibited through a sound and dance routine !!

In a distant corner there is a fit gent. With big bulging muscles and minimal clothes, lifting what seems to be half an universe. He goes, twelve, thirteen… I realise that there is one person who is gritting his teeth. And that is me.

Many hard short grunts later, he completes. And looks at his bulges in the mirror. A fulgent, intense stare. I suppose in satisfaction. I will never get there i tell myself. And I look away. The load that i attempt to lift, perhaps would require his index finger. Ok. It may require slightly more. But only slightly.

At that moment i wonder if at all there were some technique to convert all of this into some productive result. For instance, a body builder lifts weights and part of a building gets built. Through some conversion of energy technique ! How more far fetched can i get ?

My eyes search for some other human form.

There he sits in another corner. He sits listening to the gym’s trainer lecture him about the need to do more. Eyes drooping, sweat emerging from all conceivable pores, water bottle in hand he tells the trainer that he is going home for today. I look away. And as i look away, i notice his T-shirt and it is difficult to miss whats written there : impossible is nothing !

In another corner, a boy and girl engage in conversation. The sweat remains absent. The T-shirt carries the iron’s fold. But they are there too. Dabbling with some weight and lurk around the corner. Conversing and laughing. I look away. And as i do, i notice his T-shirt shouts, ‘Just Do It’ ! Well, was that explanation or seeking of right !?! Whichever way, it fitted the picture well. I look away.

Catching minutes from thin air, i seek for more ruses for rest as the hearts palpably beats less faster. I decide that to read some T-shirt messages say. And so here are a few :

a. If Attitude Were Money, I am worth a billion.
b. Would they ever invent muscle dentures ?
c. bUmP
d. Mexico ! ( I dont know what that meant )

And as i ponder about ‘why Mexico’ the gym instructor appears. With an arching eye brow and a sardonic grin he asks, ‘tired ?’ I shake my head, and look away.

And just as i do, i read whats on his T-shirt

‘Get On With It’ !

And so, life goes on.

Tamil Times !

This ad launched The Times Of India’s Chennai edition. A brilliant portrayal. With a ‘background beat’ that typifies Tamil Nadu, and a catchy ‘dance tune’ ( they said), i kept getting questions about the ‘meaning’ of the song from non-Tamil colleagues and friends !

Many of my friends and colleagues were impressed with the portrayal & capturing of life in Chennai as they could see ! Upon their goading, here is my attempt at translation !

Nakku Mukka is a ‘mascot‘ to whom the song is sung to. ( I think so). However, the song itself is about Cinema ( & its heroes’) hold out Tamil Nadu !

This is how it goes. Vaguely !!

“In Choolaimedu, Teynampet, Royapettah, T.Nagar etc ( all indelible parts of Chennai ) and across all roads of Chennai, cinema lives and rocks too !!

And here is a hero who has grown, donning many a ‘heroic’ role, asking people to have massive cut-outs for himself, and offerings of milk, dance, drums, garlands in his name !!

He aspired for power, started a casteist political party, called it ‘Rice Party’, contested the elections, and won it too !!

Only to become a minister and switch allegiance to the ruling party ! Dissolving the ‘Rice Party’ that he started.

And when this news spread to the country, his hometown turned violent !

After that he lost his reputation and was shamed.

Now he stands as a scare-crow, after losing it all !!”

Subtle sarcastic undertones to the story, creative portrayal of the state of affairs, leave me impressed ! So, does the filming. I particularly like the way in which our film hero segues from film star to minister !

So does calling the party ‘Rice Party’ the dissolution of which leads him to become a ‘scare crow’. Poetic justice, so to speak !!

The ad is but a realistic & sad commentary on the daily life of Tamil Nadu. Living a celluloid life, Tamil politics has filmdom woven into it. Face paint, stunts, dialogues, music and comedy rule the film world. So does it rule the politics there.

The ad though, has a polyannish ending. With the film star being reduced to a scare crow. In Tamil politics, such stars, shine ! And new ones continue to emerge !

A good friend told me, ‘Forget all of this ! Just enjoy the music’. Yeah right. I said. And forced an apathetic smile reside within.

Sure. Enjoy the music ! But catch the meaning too.