Sunday, August 27, 2006

Almost Famous

[The title and subject of this post have been heavily internalised from this post by Greatbong. However, the experiences described here are very much my own.]

I think everybody has, at some point in their life, a dream to appear on TV. I was no exception (to be honest I should say I am no exception, but let’s not go deeper into that). So when a teacher walked into our 7th standard classroom to announce that a team was to be sent to Bournvita Quiz Contest (BQC), I felt interested. Not that the name BQC meant a lot to me… no! In fact I had never heard the name before since there was no cable TV connection in our house. But the other boys in my class said that they watched the quiz conducted by Derek O’Brien every Sunday on Zee TV and it would be a nice opportunity to get oneself on TV.

Each team was to comprise two members: one from class 7 and the other from class 8. The next day I appeared in the written quiz that was conducted by our teachers to select the representatives from our school. I had not prepared for it since our final exams were round the corner, and naturally I was quite surprised when I came to know that I had been selected, along with Sharad Raj from class 8.

Just a couple of days after the exams were over, we had the actual quiz where one team would be selected from Allahabad. It was held in St. Joseph’s College, a school that we considered the academic equivalent of Pakistan (if our school can be considered the equivalent of India). Both of us were quite excited about it, but hadn’t got enough time to prepare much. When we reached there, we found that the quiz was a written one, conducted by a person from Big Ideas, the company that conducted the Bournvita Quiz Contest. There were 30 questions to be answered.

Winning was a piece of cake. None of the other schools turned up, probably due to exams. The St. Joseph’s College team managed a pathetic 13 out of 30 in comparison to our 23. Then the gentleman told us that the quiz episode would be shot in Mumbai sometime in May-June, and we would be given an all-expense paid trip to Mumbai to present ourselves for the shooting. We were suddenly stars in our school.

The real preparation started now. I don’t know what Sharad did, but in the summer vacations I studied whole day from quiz books bought by my father. But the final dates or the invitation letters did not arrive even in the second week of May. Then we had to leave for Hooghly for there were some ceremonies in our house.

We returned on 1st June. That very day, a letter arrived from Big Ideas stating that the shooting was on 17th/18th June. They had tried contacting our school, but had got no response, and if they did not hear from us by 2nd June, they’d replace us with another team. My father called them up immediately, only to learn that they had spoken to our principal the previous day, and apparently he had said he was “not interested”.

That afternoon we went to my school, my father and I. We spoke to Mr. Egbert, the vice principal. He was very enthusiastic about the whole thing and said he was ready to take me and Sharad to Mumbai if our principal gave the green signal. Then we went to meet Mr. C.V Innes, our principal. First he was reluctant to meet us, because he was busy strolling in his garden, and his guard tried his best to show us the door. Then my father told the guard to tell Mr. Innes that we had come about a TV programme in Mumbai etc. We were sure the guard will not be able to explain things to him, and sure enough, Mr. Innes agreed to meet us. Probably he felt that someone had come from Mumbai to interview him for a TV programme, and the temptation to show his face on TV was too much even for him. He must have been badly disappointed to see us!

The story pretty much ends here. Nothing more to add, except that we tried to convince him to give his consent on our going, and he kept on saying he couldn’t, citing a stupid reason like “no reservations available”. I still don’t understand why he was so adamant about not even trying, but the end result was that my first chance of appearing on TV went down the drain.

I think I should end this post with the time when I finally did appear on TV. It was Durga Puja time in … I think 2003. We were in a pandal in Salt Lake where a team from a local cable TV channel was asking people questions. One question was, “Which bird has no wings?” I answered “Kiwi”. Oh boy, then you should have seen the commotion! They adjusted the lights, the mikes and the camera, moved back the crowd, and said, “We’ll ask that question again to you, will you please answer it again for us?” So the anchor asked it again, this time in a more stylish way, adding “Amader chhotto bhaiti sothik uttor diye diyechhe” (Our little brother has answered it correctly) at the end. He also managed to stick his foot firmly in his mouth by telling my younger sister, “Kakima, ektu sore daran.” (Aunty, please move to the side a bit). While I did not mind being called “little brother” as long as my face appeared on TV (though I was in 3rd year at the time), my sister surely did not like being called “Aunty”. If a stare could kill, that anchor would have dropped dead then and there.

The programme was aired on the local channel a few weeks later. I was away attending a wedding that day, and I think the only person in the world who saw that telecast was my maternal grandmother, who fought with everybody else in the house to keep the TV tuned to the local channel to catch a glimpse of my face.

I appeared on TV once more last December, when I was shopping at a handicrafts fair in Hyderabad with my friend Smita. It was on ETV, which is a Telugu channel available all over India. However, this time it was Smita’s interview and I was just there in the background.

Another time a newspaper published my photo talking to a Nobel Prize winning scientist, but that’s another story. In spite of everything, however, I still rue the fact that I got the chance of appearing in BQC and couldn’t make it because of somebody else’s fault.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

A week of extremes

That’s the only name I can think of for this week.

It started off with my parents arriving early morning last Sunday. I had an extremely enjoyable time with them. Visited Salar Jung, Charminar, Hussain Sagar, Birla Mandir, Ramkrishna Mission and Hyderabad Central. Also showed them around Hi Tech City. (This was the reason I couldn’t write a blog post for so long.) When my office reopened on Wednesday after a long weekend of four days, I was fully refreshed.

In the meantime my project at office ran into troubled waters with our onsite coordinator returning to India due to a personal emergency of a very unfortunate kind. With the system testing phase about to end and regression testing about to start, I have been extremely busy running test cases till late in the night.

And I’m likely to remain this way for some time to come, for this week is going to be the longest week of my professional life. I had office today, and again I have office tomorrow. Which means I’ll get the next holiday on next Saturday.

Which makes it a ten-day week for me.

Apart from the work at the office, I have to look for a new flat to stay, as our landlord wants us to vacate our present flat by the end of this month. But our searches so far reveal that "all the good ones are taken, and if one isn't taken, there's a reason for it."

That’s enough for tonight. I’ll write a proper blog post in a few days. Till then, enjoy these photos.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Living in cages

It's a strange feeling... wanting to blog but being unable to find the time to write a post.

Anyway, thought I'd share this photo (click to enlarge) until I find time to write a proper post. These are flats in an important locality of Hyderabad. But do these balconies really look like bird cages or is it just a figment of my crooked imagination? And people have to pay hefty amounts to own these?
Noticed them in my first week in Hyderabad but had to wait this long to manage a photo.

[Thanks to KM, found this article on the Internet about the ugliness of modern Indian architecture. It is a beautiful read.]

Friday, August 04, 2006

Did I do the right thing?

Date: Monday, 31st July 2006
11:30 PM
Place: Madhapur,

I had to stay late at office to attend a client meeting. My office is in a village about nine kilometres from my house. So an office cab dropped me on the main road near my house about half an hour before midnight.

To reach my house, I have to walk around 500 metres down a lane lined with trees and a couple of houses on one side and a big function hall on the other. On a non-function night, this road can be unusually dark and quiet. On such a night I would have probably told the cab driver to take me right up to my gate. However, on this night bright floodlights lit up the lane. Obviously a wedding or some other kind of function had been going on. Since there were some other people in the cab to be dropped, I alighted at the main road and proceeded to walk down the lane.

The lane was brightly lit, and one or two people could be seen as I started walking towards my house. I was holding my mobile phone in my hand. A man came from the other end. He was wearing a wrinkled shirt with a flowery pattern and dirty trousers. He had an unkempt beard. His overall appearance was extremely shabby. He longingly eyed my hand holding the mobile phone.

As he reached me, he said (in Hindi) “Sir, may I borrow your phone for a moment, I need to give a missed call to my boss.” Even without thinking, I blurted out, “I don’t have balance in my cell.”

“Please sir, I’ll just give a missed call,” he insisted. I still refused. At last he said, “OK, I’ll tell you the number, you dial it yourself.” I’m not very good at lying, and almost agreed to that plan, before realizing that I was not supposed to have balance. “Oh ok, tell me…er… but I don’t think it’ll work”, was my half-cooked reply. But instead of telling me the number, he told me how he needed to call his boss badly, but couldn’t as he didn’t know the public phone booths in the area.

I gave him directions for finding a phone booth, and he left with a “Thanks” and “Sorry to bother you”. As I saw him go, I felt very sure that he wouldn’t find a phone booth open anywhere nearby at this time of the night, in case he really needed it.

Did I do the right thing? Or did I refuse help to a really needy person in trouble? I have no way of telling now. But one thing I’m sure of: given a similar situation again, I will react in the exact same way. Probably my lie will be more convincing this time. In any case, I’m never going to lend my phone to a rough-looking person in an empty lane at half past eleven in the night. Not even if he truly needs it.

When we lose faith in some of our fellow human beings, everybody has to suffer in the end.