It Only Happens in Chandigarh

For many of us, Sundays mark freedom from routine and work-related to-do lists. Even so, the lack of routine shouldn’t imply an absence of ritual. It could be simple acts like not bathing until noon, oiling your hair, eating a particular food item for lunch, cleaning your room and the likes.

Since the last two Sundays I have enjoyed soaking the last of the winter sun here in Chandigarh along with a gargantuan reading list – gargantuan, at least for a novice reader such as me.  Newspapers and media portals reserve some of their best features for Sundays, and I aim to read through them – as some of you may know, a short attention span is inversely proportional to an immersive reading session.

Sunday reading lists are a pleasant break from mainstream news of ranting politicians and policy analysis. Mind you though, the attempt to indulge in reading these is not selfless – the aim is to ideate and stumble upon a thought one can build upon and perhaps discuss with peers and family.  

And such thoughts and ideas are always a surprise. I’ll confess that I don’t always start reading a story with the intention of completing it. This morning I stumbled upon one such story on page 13 of The Hindu. This story by Ruchir Joshi is about peculiar acts of the people of a city that when witnessed first hand, give an onlooker a slight idea and a deeper insight “about the people there and their particular environment”. He has beautifully explained what he means by it. I’ll lift an example from his piece to illustrate it to you. This is what the writer witnessed in Calcutta’s local market:

“A bus stops, a middle-class man alights and unhesitatingly walks over to the blue-and-white painted railing and the tree beyond that creates a gap between the stalls. There, in the morning rush hour, people milling around not far away, he relieves himself before walking away. This may happen all over India, but in this exact way it only happens in my city.”

It’s obvious to what I am coming to. Reading the story made me wonder about unique acts undertaken by citizens of Chandigarh. Almost effortlessly I thought about Sukhna lake – the place where young and old, the fit and unfit, the city’s middle-class and well-to-do converge to get their nature fix.

During several evenings when I have visited the lake to attempt a run, I witnessed couples, huddled together in corners receiving the least amount of light. I have never caught anyone doing what they are not supposed to in such an obviously public space, but I have often seen them walking together at a snail’s pace, or sharing silence while looking onto the finite lake waters. Often, I have admired their attention to detail – on more than one occasion I noticed girls dressed up in elaborate outfits, complete with the right pair of shoes. When I pant past them, I often feel out of place – which is an odd feeling, after all, a running/walking track is meant to be run down upon!

I try to refrain from passing judgments on them and other groups of marauding teenagers who seem to be leisurely strolling away their boredom. Chandigarh is a small city, the population is ever growing and places to spend time meaningfully are ever decreasing. It is also not the most progressive and open-minded city in the country – people’s gazes are often brutal and they don’t hesitate from forming an idea about the other, however incomplete. Add to this the fact that many young people live with their parents. Hence, there are few outlets where one can escape being spotted by familiar faces. Therefore, rather ironically, it is in an otherwise bustling public place’s darkest corners that one can hope for privacy and quiet.

You may rightfully point out that love-struck couples in parks are not uncommon in the rest of India. However, in my defence, I’d say, “In this exact way it only happens in my city”.

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Showering: A Race Against Time

One of the many pleasures of living in cold spaces is having access to long hot water showers. In India, I am assuming, showers have not yet arrived in urban middle-class washrooms the way water jets did well over a decade ago. The water jet did so well that it garnered popularity with some of my NRI relatives as well – they carried the paraphernalia to distant America.

Even today, many people including my mother, prefer to use a bucket and a mug to bathe. As people ascend the ladder of modernism and become aware about western practices, the number of showers in urban Indian households should increase – their types ever mounting. Maybe, shower heads are no longer considered a luxury, and have become something that is basic to a washroom. In other words, spotting a shower head inside a washroom is as obvious as the presence of the humble wash basin.

I reckon till I was well over 16, we did not have a shower at home. Therefore, bathing meant arranging the apparatus – a bucket, a mug and a stool on which one could plonk themselves. “Plonk” I know of this word because of my mother’s heavy usage of it – mostly while referring to any one from the family spending the particular hour of the day in a slothful manner.

Now, regardless of this digression being worth it or not, I need to carry on writing this, for the sake of completeness.

Bathing, for me has always been a chore, an activity that has to be carried out. Note that the emphasis is on the word, “has”. Iwouldn’t shy away from telling you that there have been times, most frequently in the winter months where I have abandoned it – the longest being for a week.

Even so, one can’t dismiss the relief that a hot water shower brings with it. A hot shower might strip you away of your natural body oils and make your hair more frizzy – but the relief, the sheer relaxation is hardly a feeling that needs to be debated. Hot water showers are indubitably the stuff of dreams – my friend’s confession long hot showers making her day corroborates this.

But where does the race against time bit, as suggested in the title, come from? You see, the geyser in my house, has a rather abysmal capacity – five minutes of comforting warmth slowly gives way to lukewarm and ultimately, cold water. As I write this, it is 19 degree celsius outside, and even with this moderately pleasant temperature, I can’t help but shudder at the thought of a cold bath.

After I learnt about the geyser’s frugal capacity for the first time, I had to make sure that the harrowing realisation doesn’t come again – especially when one is lathered in soap and the hair are cloaked with a thick layer of shampoo froth. There is nothing you can do to escape, the soap and shampoo must be washed off with cold water, unless you have the patience to wait for the geyser to warm another batch.

Following the former, while slathering cream on your face, the motions of your hands may come across patches of wet sludge, remnants of the face wash you didn’t wash off in your hurried clumsiness.

Even so, a new geyser was and is, out of the question. Therefore, a methodical bathing session was constructed. To succeed, the plan was this: the lids of the shampoo bottle, the face wash be opened, arranged in the order they need to be used, at an arm’s length from where you bathe. The soap should be ready in the soap dish, slightly moist so that valuable hot water is not wasted in making it usable. The shower lever is arranged such that when opened, the optimal amount and temperature of water rush out.

The hair is washed first, followed by the rest of it. All of this is done in one quick mechanical motion. If you are efficient, you can squeeze in over 30 seconds of idling away time, suitable for any shower thoughts – such as the idea to write about one’s showering experience.

 

Journalist attacked with water balloons for writing about children’s reading habits

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Dholakpur: A freelance journalist, Nirdosh Pirzada was recently attacked by children for writing a controversial article about how kids should be encouraged to read. The five accused go to the same preschool in Dholakpur. The attackers used water balloons which were prepared in advance and threw a barrage of them at the hapless journalist when he was coming out of his car, parked outside his residence.

The intensity of one of the water balloons was fierce and caused Pirzada to lose balance, as a result of which he fell and suffered a scrape on his knee. The attackers made sure to finish the prepared balloons on the man and ended the violence with a spray of cold water, on his chest, delivered through a water gun.

They fled from the spot soon after their mothers called them back home to finish their homework and milk. Pirzada is currently admitted to an expensive city hospital where he is undergoing treatment to cure his scrapes and post-traumatic headache. Doctors have said he will need intensive care and will be charged five times of what the treatment actually should.

Meanwhile, the children have been taken into custody for questioning and investigation by the Dholakpur police. One of them, Titoo aged 6, said, “He has no right to tell us children that we should read, look at our ministers and leaders, they don’t read. I want to be like them when I grow up.” An emotional Titoo started crying after this and was consoled after he was allowed to play with his favourite action figure, which he proudly called Namoo. The other children weren’t available for comments since they were occupied in a ceremony organised by their school, applauding them for their deed. The school has also named five squads in their honour.

Pirzada, a journalist since one year was enraged and is planning on taking the matter to court. “I won’t let these kids go free. Their minds have been poisoned because they drink cow’s milk, I am telling you buffalo milk is A1.”

Pirzada fainted after his Facebook live session.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Indian who can’t stop eating fish and chips, moves to Britain.

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Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A resident of western Punjab, Mahinder Singh has moved to Britain after he ate fish and chips at a local London pub while on a holiday. He found the dish to be so compelling and different from the way Indian Cafe’s serve it, that he decided to get a visa and move there as soon as he could. In an exclusive interview with Ji News, Mahinder has shared his journey from Punjab to London.

The first question I asked Mahinder was how he would sustain himself in Britain, he said, “That comes later, first I want my fish and chips.” “I just can’t get enough, Paranthas suck.”

Mahinder was an aspiring Uber driver in India, and used to live off his father’s land near Jalandhar. His mother said that he has been a fan of fish since childhood, so she would cook him a lot of the dishes’ Amritsari version. “I did not like Uhm-ritsari fish since it wasn’t western enough. It just wasn’t cool,” said Mahinder. He says he has grown up with Western Cinema and literature, and read books such as Shakesbeer’s famous novel, “Beer in Mugga – Chug it while you can.” 

Mahinder was home schooled, a very rare practice in Punjab, just like financial independence among millennials. His father described him as an “ecstatic, distracted and impulsive” child.  “Mahinder was born impulsive, he was a premature baby, couldn’t wait to be born!”

“I knew one day the Western World would call me, I just didn’t know it would be like this. I had to waste my parent’s money someday, now was the right time. It just felt it was the right time,” said an emotional Mahinder, wiping tears from the corner of his eyes.

We wish Mahinder all the best for his stay in London. Watch out for our documentary that captures his life, moment by moment in the city of London, next week. We have too much money for a media organisation, so we document what we want to, when we want to and how we want to.

[Note: Mahinder requested to spell Amritsar as can be seen in the quotes, it is not the authors or Ji New’s responsibility. We are not accountable for anything that is published under our name.]

How to kill your audience one word at a time?!

In my long writing career spanning a staggering 5 months, I took part in two open mics in the city of Bangalore. Open Mic is an event where people with no talent are given a platform to make a fool of themselves. What’s more, you have to pay to make a fool of yourself.

I don’t have qualms about making a fool out of myself unless I am gaining something from it, this time it was the fact that the cost of the ticket was fully redeemable on food and alcohol! I performed my second Open Mic on 19th September 2017 at the ill-fated venue that got bombed by my presence.

This blog post is a recollection of the wonderous evening that has now illumined my life forever.

It was a sunny Sunday morning when I woke up to revise and add more notes to my short 3-minute act. This was the morning of 19th September. I had now been preparing since 2 weeks, changing topics and ploughing bravely through my existing piece.

2 weeks before the Open Mic I was rummaging through ideas about what I could speak about. Finally, the idea hit me when I was least expecting any kind of inspiration! Almost as if the almighty God, in whose existence I have no doubts about, heard my desperate prayers. So on one fine Chandigarh evening, while I was walking my dog, I sniffed something. One would think that I’d smelt a fart, I hadn’t. I smelt something worse. Activism. This viral infection is and was, at that time, in the air. There was nothing I could do to avoid it. After I took in that whiff of air containing this virus, I started seeing placards and began my journey towards hearing the sounds of screaming, raging youngsters protesting for their right to protest. It was almost like an epiphany. Now I knew what I was going to speak about.

My piece was titled, “Running Out of Things to get Offended by: A roundtable conference for solving problems in an activist’s world.” In this fictitious account, I spoke as a reporter who attended the World Activists’ Conference.

But here’s the unsurprising bit, even though I knew what I wanted to talk about, I failed. It seems to me that what this giant leprechaun once said is true after all, “Failure hurts the most when one is confident that they won’t fail.”

Written below are a few tips to achieve what I did:

1.Post my performance I realised that the key to killing your audience subtly, yet powerfully is to read out what you have written in a deadpan manner. Making sure that your content is below average will accelerate the whole process.

2. Keep your act short and crisp, like a chocolate cake. A crisp chocolate cake attracts no ones fondness.

3. That’s it, there is nothing more you can do in those 3 minutes. Nothing is exactly what you have to do in order to kill your audience, one word at a time.

They say there is no recipe for success, but there certainly is, a recipe for failure.

Thank you and have a nice day.

 

A recipe for tea

George Orwell, a man you wouldn’t expect to write a recipe for tea, wrote one indeed. It was published under the title, “A Nice Cup of Tea” in 1946. The kind of tea he fancies is far from the milky concoction I like to sip. He didn’t like to add sugar to it since he believed it would distract one’s taste buds from the flavour of the drink. 

One can say that I have an avidity for tea. For the brief period of one year that I stayed alone and had access to a stove, I carried from home, among other things, two mugs, tea leaves- both granulated and leaves, sieve, and a vessel in which to make it. Throughout this period, I would make a less than decent cup and sip it anyway because of lack of other options. It was only when I shifted back home, that I tried to find a way to make the kind of tea that is sold for 5 and sometimes under rupees 10 at tapris across India. After about 20 cups, I perfected the technique, here is my recipe to make tea, the way I like it.

  1. Take about an inch of ginger and a clove of cardamom. This amount should be enough to make you feel a transient warmth in the throat, as the liquid makes its way forward. However, it should not be so overpowering that it makes you want to not take subsequent sips. Cardamom, mostly for the fragrance. My mother, at times, likes to keep the pod in the tea while drinking. One can not bother with it. Using a pestle and mortar, pound the ginger and cardamom, until it looks it has been severely stamped upon. Unload the contents of the mortar into a pan. Pour a cup of water into the pan and turn on the gas.
  2. Once the water comes to a boil, put two heaped teaspoons of tea into the pot. The water should be fierce at this point, for the tea to meld with the water wholly. Lower the intensity of the gas flame and wait for under two minutes for the tea leaves to infuse properly.
  3. Add milk to calm the pan down, the amount should be enough to turn the liquid into the colour of caramel. Let this boil for another two minutes. Remember, the flame is still low.
  4. Once you have pottered over the pan for this duration, pour it into the cup. At the moment, my fealty lies in a clear glass cup.

Much like opinions, the kind of tea one likes is a purely subjective affair. There is none presently, and can never be a perfect recipe for it. If you don’t like this one, it is only imperative that you should master the technique to make the kind you like to sip.

 

 

 

 

Understanding the power of instrumental music through YouTube’s comments section

A year ago when I moved to Bangalore, I often started my days at 12 am due to the nature of my job. As a result, I had lots of time to kill alone. In the lull of the night, I found the joy of music devoid of lyrics by a fortunate accident. Daft Punk’s Voyager was the first one I discovered myself.

When I thought about why I like instrumental music, I only had one answer, that it lets you imagine the words rather than the lyrics shaping the message for you. I found this answer on Quora as well and wasn’t surprised that many people on the internet feel the same way.

Below, you will find some songs that I have listened to the most in the last 12 months and below each song are the comments from different people across the world, posted as YouTube comments. I often have the habit of scrolling down to the YouTube comments section to read what other people think of the songs and also figured that YouTube comments section is one of the most honest places on the internet. Often I find comments I relate to and some that offer a different meaning to the music.  Hence I decided to go through the comments again and lift some of them as it is, to help one understand what people think when they listen to music devoid of any vocals.

Daft Punk – Voyager

“Everyone talks about how this (and all the other songs on this album) bring back memories. Sad I’m getting into it just now. Why didn’t I know about this when I was a child?”

“It is a good song to listen to while driving under the countless stars that burn a flame through our hearts”

“long ass drives in the night. all your friends are in the backseat/passenger seat dead asleep. you’ve got Daft Punk playing low on the stereo to keep yourself awake. after an hour or so of driving fidgets awake. “…hey, is this Daft Punk?” they inquire with a sleepy rasp. “Uh, yeah” you whisper, careful to wake anyone else. “…fuck yeah” they reply, squirming back into a comfortable position to fall back to sleep. you drive on into the night, feeling nothing but the road and the music and the void outside your car. there is nothing more theraputic in the world.”

“This song is amazing. its my number one track when i go snowboarding, cruising down with this song makes it great every time”

“Once this song got stuck in my head for so long, I couldn’t sleep for a couple days”

“I just want to dance, I can’t control my body ! This song makes me feel immortal”

“I’m not in my room anymore.”

Daft Punk – Aerodynamic

“Bought this when I was very young, and working on forest property moving branches and fallen trees. It kept me going and interested as I collected firewood for the house. Miss it”

“This song is underrated.”

“I was loving this song until the trash happened at 3:33” The song is 3:32 seconds long

“It sounds like a robot pooping, but still amazing”

“some day i will have a heart atack listen to this”

Bonobo – Kerala

“try to blink with every beat, makes it even more mindblowing”

“as a professional editor this edit earned my respect….also gave me a nervous breakdown.”

“Wow, impressive! This video gave me goosebumps and I felt weird but in a good way. In my understanding she’s a glitch in the matrix, alone and afraid, when normal people make an order in things so they look normal she sees the world raw as it is. Ofc loops can reflect her mental state as someone mentioned but they are mostly for us and to capture those moments. I don’t know if my interpretation is too obvious or the opposite, may be is not deep enough and the video is full of metaphors but I like it this way :)”

“So what I take away from this video is that it’s about schizophrenia/mental illness. The frames loop to match the beat of the song but it also reflects her mental state along with all the weird things happening around her and the way she is freaked out. Really very moving if you’ve had people in your life that have suffered such illnesses. It honestly almost brought a tear to my eye when I realized the symbolism.”

God is an Astronaut – All is bright all is violent

“A Warm Place”

“chills down my eyes, tears in my spine.”

“Wish it could last the rest of my life, 4 minutes isn’t enough”

Bonobo – Black Sands

“You suddenly feel nostalgic of the life you never had”

“This makes me visualize life from birth to death. Anyone else?”

“Can’t stop listening this, i’m listening this for over year now and it’s still like the first time”

“listening to this on a rainy day is magic”

Ludovico Einaudi – Time Lapse

“what a man he can take you to places you have never been before with his music. run is my favourite but there are so many more, it helps you to reflect and put things into perspective. what a brilliant musician.”

“this is the soundtrack of my life”

“clouds, ravens, mountains…”

 

Chromatics- Tick of the Clock

“I listen to this while I drive my grandma to pick up her medication”

“Listen to this song anytime you want a regular situation to be intense. You listen to this shit while walking to class, and you’re expecting for some serious shit to go down”

“I wanna slowly drive trough my town and look at people suspiciously to this music.”

“listen to this while taking a shit, trust me it intensifies the moment”

“Imagine listening to this while your delivering pizzas.”

Eric Prydz – Opus

“When you’re trying to finish your exam under 10 minutes.”

“Where did all the dislikes come from though…”

“Music doesnt need lyrics to tell a story…”

“A unsung legend…”

“The intro brings feels of an ending, this is it, this is where it ends. But, the ending is ok, you’ve accepted it, your smiling, its ok, you finally understand, its actually beautiful and everything will be ok. Everything comes together. Peace is restored. A ending and a beginning, all in one.”

Thomas Bergersen – Final Frontier

“They need to play this for the launch of the mission to Mars.”

“this song makes you feel: ” alright, alright, alright!”

“when the mexicans see the wall”

“If you look long enough the clouds move”

“Just imagine standing in front of an orchester that is playing this track… ”

“ts feels so liberating and its so epic”

Hans Zimmer – Interstellar main theme 

“The music reminds me of my mum who died of gastric cancer last week. Mum, I love u and I miss u”

“So, who else feels the chills every time you hear this? :)”
“Because of bad luck, I threw up and I screwed the public university entrance exam of my country. Everything has since been and will be ruined for the rest of my life. I come here every now and then to appease myself.”
“wouldn’t it be amazing if all war on earth stopped? If instead (like Star Trek) we focused our money and resources into space exploration? Even the thought of it takes my breath away.”
“To me, the recurring high-pitched synthetically sounding strings (i don’t know what it’s called) are like the revolving lights on a lighthouse, or the beeps of a sonar, in their search for the meaning of life. As the music gets louder, the hope of humanity increases, only to pass that point and continue further in a vain attempt to find what can’t be found.”

 

Ramin Djawadi -Game of Thrones, Light of the Seven

“This leaves me speechless. More than half a year later, I still get full-body ghoosebumps listening to this score.”

“This was the greatest opening to a TV show I’ve ever seen, it was legitimately mesmerizing!”

“Just came here because of the Second trailer today…had to hear it again”

“This piece of music was the highlight of my year.”

“37 DAYS LEFT!!!!!!!!”

“This is now my alarm.”

 

Yann Tiersen –Comptine d’un autre été (Piano) 

 

“bad memories…”

“Why is everyone commenting in their own language tho”

“this is so beautiful. It makes me calm and happy.”