Thursday, December 27, 2007


words are wonderful.

they have the power to caress, uplift, embolden, dance and love.

words can make you feel like a gawky teenager all over again, like when the world was full of good people, when a stranger could offer a lollipop or a lift with no ulterior intent, when the sun felt warm and sweet and happy and never hot.

they can fill your belly with such joy that you might need to burp, such laughter that you might feel sad knowing immediately, suddenly and sadly, that the laughter will and must die.

words are like passionate lovers; free-flowing and brave and giving, as unabashed in a peck on the cheek as in a super-swallow blow job.

words are also educative; they can teach you, make you live longer by making you dwell both in the past and the future in one lifetime, by making you understand history, culture, moments of deliberation and moments of defiance.

words are immortal; they live in suspended animation, belonging as much to the listener as the speaker, breathing for centuries after the person who uttered them is excreta in an earthworm’s belly or dust in a choking world from a long-dead pyre.

words are inspiration; they are muscle in battle-weary sinews, courage in hero-starved nations, hope for the love-destitute and redemption for the condemned.

words are dreams about realities yet to happen, explanations of magic yet to be seen and truths about Santa Claus. In that way, they are also escape; lifeboats from Alactraz, tunnels in Shawshank and the gunny bag for the Count of Monte Cristo.

words are art in the alphabet form and sensibility for the noveau-literate.

but for all their beauty, words have a Hyde side too.

wielded carelessly or craftily, they can hurt, wound, gloat, pulverize and annihilate.

totally, completely and eternally.

and that’s why, kneaded with all my love for them, is a cold dollop of fear.

for what they might make me say, or make me hear.

they really are two-faced sons-of-bitches.

and there’s no other word for them.

peace, love, empathy

ram cobain

Sunday, October 21, 2007

the truth in black or white

the best coffee is not about the freshest beans or the milk or the sugar.

it’s about who you have it with.

ram cobain

Sunday, August 12, 2007

sounds funny...

...but does a word rhyme with itself?

ram cobain

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

words worth

coming from the right person, a “hi, how’re you doing” isn't a greeting.

it's a rescuing.

ram cobain

Saturday, July 28, 2007


hey beautiful girl on the dance floor

preying and hunted


ram cobain

a pageful of autobiography

they look up to me

they think I’m cool

I agree

I’m a metal head

I love Slayer

my ambition is to take a loan and go to the US and watch Slaaaaaayer live

I pose with my tongue out

I wear black tees with hideous designs

I sing kishore kumar songs

I sound horrible

I haven’t used a comb in 3 years

I’m balding

I'm heterosexual

I’ve loved, lost and not learnt

I’m searching for you

I can’t dance

I like dancing

I make the same mistakes still

I have heroes

I'd love to be a martyr

I have obvious and secret admirers

I don't have a tattoo, yet

i love books

I’m a good friend

I have few enemies but they remember me

I hope I’m a good son

I’m a talented writer

I'm a passionate advertising writer

I try to be a good junior

I try harder to be a good boss

I’m an awesome poet

I’m not modest but I’m humble

I’m an optimist

I wear Levis

I wear contact lenses

I make mindblowing yellow dal

I wash my own clothes

I think too much

I've slapped a guy once, hard

I’m vegetarian but I don’t like veggies

I love dogs

I believe in God

I’m single

I have a matrimony id

I love beer

I’ve never smoked

I don't polish my shoes

I don't wear shirts but i look wow when i do

my last credit card bill was for Rs. 46000

I don’t save

I swear in hindi and smile

my favourite TV show is South Park

I had a compound skull fracture on my Enfield

I ride it still

I believe in Sachin Tendulkar

I’m a Nirvana fan

I often repeat myself

they call me ram cobain

I call me ram cobain

Thursday, July 26, 2007

the biker

I have a Royal Enfield Thunderbird but this note isn’t about either of us

it’s about a guy in my office complex who rides an Enticer to work everyday

his Enticer is fitted with extra wheels on the side, like a child’s cycle

no, he’s not a wimp

he’s probably the bravest man I’ve seen

you see, the thing is that this guy doesn’t walk

he crawls

his legs are twisted and bent under him, like a tortoise coil made out of skin and sinew

like the sweet god of creation changed his mind halfway

only halfway

so everyday, he inches forward like a gravel swimmer, slowly, painfully

and proudly

I feel like rooting for him, clapping like a wound-up toy monkey

but to do so would be to acknowledge what he’s fiercely forgetting every minute of his life

so I stay quiet, avert my gaze till I hear the roar of the motorcycle

only then do I turn to see him riding away

I don’t even know his name

but I know that I’m 5 feet 8 inches tall and he that towers over me.

ram cobain

Sunday, July 22, 2007

career choices

if I were not a writer, I’d be reading someone else’s blog.


ram cobain

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


people without a passion, any passion

who don’t like music

don’t have heroes, fallen or standing tall

don’t read books, don’t re-read books

who don’t know who Stephen King is

who ask what Sachin Tendulkar has done

who’ve never ridden a bike (pillion included)

people who’ve never bunked school

who’ve never had a favourite teacher

people who’ve never written a love letter, bought flowers

people who’ve never felt like a fool (angrily or grudgingly)

who don’t cry at movies, laugh at jokes, feel scared in a dark room

people who lick ass and cover their own

who don’t stand straight when the national anthem plays

people who don’t stand straight, period

who iron their jeans

who think goodness is weakness

people who don’t like traveling

people whose beds have never been unmade

people who buy quietly at swanky stores and bargain loudly with the poor

people who don’t find their mother tongue cool

people who don’t find their mother cool

people who don’t think dad is a rock star (unless he isn't)

who say one thing and mean another (unless they’re women, joking!)

who’d love to see you go down

people who don’t reach out for their wallets quickly enough

who split the bill according to their share

who don’t love themselves (unless justified)

don’t have a best friend (or five!)

who’ve never gifted more than they’ve got

people who’ve never smiled on a Monday morning, never sobbed on a Sunday afternoon

who don’t have a sense of right and wrong

people who remember insults more than compliments

people who think poetry is intellectual and not that they’re imbecilic

who think the Swastika is a symbol of pride and not shame

who think all Muslims are terrorists (and vice versa)

people who haven’t been in love with the wrong person

people who haven’t lost in love with the right person

people who cheat in love

people who haven’t blown soap bubbles

people who haven’t eaten street food

people who’ve never tried cooking

people who see the glass as half empty (even when it is spilling over)

who’ve never broken a bone or a heart

who’ve never petted a stray dog

people who aren’t proud of their roots

people who don’t like chocolate

people who haven’t asked for extra cheese

people who’ve never mismatched clothes

people who’ve never given to lesser-privileged people

people who have grown up early

people who have never burped in public

people who’ve never waited for a phone to ring

who’ve never written, deleted and re-written the same sms

who’ve never agonized over a ‘sending message’ alert

people who’ve never driven faster than the speed limit

who’ve never confused the fork and knife hand

who’ve never been thrilled during a plane takeoff

who’ve never felt depressed in a hotel room

who’ve never offered a sweaty salesman a cold glass of water

people who’ve never said thank you

people who’ve never said sorry

people who are insecure (especially if they are brilliant)

who act with their brain and not their gut

who’ve never clapped when they’ve been bested

people who’ve never been drunk (teetotalers forgiven)

people who don’t go to birthdays

people who don’t go to funerals (notwithstanding their own)

people who don’t believe in god (unless they’re atheists)

who don’t mind hurting others knowingly

all such people...

i'm happy to not know you.

ram cobain

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Unidentified Funny Object

jokes are proof that aliens exist.

after all, none of us has met a single human being who can claim he’s thought of a rib-tickler and pass a polygraph while saying so.


ram cobain

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

a for...

are there degrees of assholism?

is there a type 1 asshole, a b-asshole and the alpha asshole?

are there benign and malignant assholes?

incurable and wannabe assholes?

first-time and certified assholes?

genetic and acquired assholes?

is assholism an instinct?

is it contagious?

will it spread by touch?

by association?

is there an Assholics Anonymous and how do you get someone admitted there?

does it make you an asshole if you treat an asshole like an asshole?

can you spot an asshole by just looking at one?

do assholes have assholes?

how do you gently break the news to someone that he’s an asshole?

are there asshole doctors in the yellow pages?

can you get arrested for being an asshole?

should there be capital punishment for assholes?

can assholes plead for clemency?

how does an asshole prove his innocence?

can you sue for false arrest?

are there countries that have legalized euthanasia for assholes?

should assholes be allowed to run for government, be bosses or hold positions of authority?

is there a self-examination test to check if you’re an asshole?

have you taken one recently?

peace, love, empathy
ram cobain

(assuredly not an asshole)

Thursday, June 21, 2007


to you, old friend

to you, new hope and rainbow

to you, beautiful voyeur

to you, sweet lost love, holding on

to you, ancient enemy keeping tab

to you, stranger trolling by

to you, fellow Stephen King Constant Reader

to you, the cure

to you, the curse

to you, comrade in words

to you, fan

to you, critic saerching for grammer flaws

to you, happy teacher

to you, wannabe blogger

to you, passionate plagiarist

to you

yes you.

happy reading.

ram cobain

the glass and the halfway mark

it's not what you do for a living.
it's what living does for you.

ram cobain

Saturday, June 16, 2007


the last time I saw a man without a problem, he was busy inventing one.

because as life has taught us in surprisingly sneaky ways, the light at the end of the tunnel is often that of the incoming train.

and we’ve been very good pupils. Observant. Obedient. Outstanding. We’ve memorized and internalized, accepted that these shoulders were meant for drooping, the head for falling and the chest for tuberculosis.

at the cost of sounding like Ayn Rand, this is what your fellow student has learnt:

we all have our issues, our albatrosses, our skeletons, our demons. it may be a fear of rejection, of shame, of hurt, of inadequacy. of not loving enough or of loving too much. of being too fat or too thin, too ugly or too beautiful, of being too tall, too short, too poor, too rich, too this or too that.

I don’t know who your personal bogeyman is. and I’m sure as inflation not going to tell you who’s mine.

but I do know that he’s also doing the rounds at someone else’s home . What you’re feeling, others too are feeling. You may be special, but the bogeyman believes in quantity over quality. Every time.

once you realize that you’re not the only one he’s stalking, things will look up. The Law of Solace in Mass Suffering. It’s as true as that Murphy was a pessimist. it works for me, and believe me when I say it’ll work for you.

for the pup’s piddle only appears like a leviathan’s leak when you feel singled out.

so smile, my sunshine brother. you’re not alone in whatever you're facing.

the bogeyman is a sadist, don’t give him your tears when a knee to the groin is what he’s asking for.

let your hands fall but clench those knuckles. appear weak only to lull him into coming close.

and then unlearn.

even old dogs can do this successfully.

peace, love, empathy
ram cobain

Saturday, June 9, 2007


I have to try even though I know I’ll fail.
am I still your hero?

ram cobain

“where do you go from the top of the mountain” in 500 words.

when it comes down to it, 6 years fit easily into one small cardboard box.

but I don’t want to think about that now. It’s better to wind the clock back and see life flash before your eyes one more time. Because leaving JWT Delhi is pretty much like that other journey, only without the mess of disposal and the contesting of wills J

joining is so much more fun anyway.

1st April 2001. Pretty befitting most people would say. I came here as a one-month summer trainee and hopefully haven’t overstayed my welcome. Sandy joined in November and my first impression of him was that “where’s the art guy and why is his father sitting in his place?” We were paired together and today I’d rather write a 7-min Mother's Horlicks film than lose him. And over the years, we’ve hit it off well as partners (bad cop-bad cop always!), friends and brothers.

we’ve grown as professionals and stayed immature in every other way.

but if I sound too nostalgic or self-indulgent, humour me. after all, most of you have been laughing at my superb jokes for all these years, so I feel I can ask for my pound of flesh now (it ought to be worth more as we’re vegetarians ahhahhaa!).

now that the applause has died down, let me tell you what I think is so awesome about JWT Delhi. The fact that this place is a living, breathing being. Prone to its mood swings like a woman on her lunar day and beautiful as hell. We’ve been more at home here than where our rent receipts show us staying. We’ve walked with a swagger as trainees, used hinterland Hindi as our first language, played some noisy heavy metal at full volume and watched porn at 11 in the morning.

JWT Delhi has not only tolerated us but loved us too. It’s my theory that this company selects whom it takes under its wing and not vice versa. You don’t choose to fit in, it decides if you do. There have been people like us, who’ve felt as comfortable here as a Johnson’s bud in a wax-rich ear and others who’ve walked every day as if Walter Thompson’s ethereal hand were squeezing their testicles. The truth is that if this company likes you, it treats you like blood. It’ll be there for you when you’re in the hospital and pay your bills not covered by policy. It’ll choose to ignore your inflated pink vouchers and the false “on duty” scrawls on the attendance register. It’ll let you flout hierarchy like a smelly fart during the chairman’s speech.

No matter where we go and where we end up, JWT Delhi has made us what we are. It’s been a teacher, mentor, mother and friend but never a corporation. It has given us the finest boss one could hope to work under and our best friends. It has given us (ok, me – sorry Sandy!) very special girlfriends and an inimitable bunch of colleagues and clients (you know who you are, heroes and assholes alike).

It’s been so much that to think of the cardboard box is numbing.

It’s scary to leave. You feel naked and vulnerable. As unsure as a miser signing a tip. As lost as a summer trainee again. But screaming over all the doubts is a quiet voice that says that the time is right. The wings are ready. The big bad world is too tempting. And we have your approval.

In our own way, we hope that we’ve been able to do JWT Delhi and you guys proud. A little bit at least. Thanks for everything. It’s been a rollercoaster ride with the arms off the safety bar.

we wouldn’t want it any other way.

peace, love, empathy
ram & sandy
june 2007


Saaachin! Sachin!

All great players are above statistics, figures, records and numbers.

Thus this is not an article about what Sachin has achieved - if you don’t know what that is already, you shouldn’t be reading this in the first place. This is also not about the Sachin we’ve grown up loving, admiring, cheering, praising and priding.

This is about Sachin Tendulkar at the crossroads. It’s about a Sachin who is hurting.

He won’t speak out, leak an email or forward an indiscreet sms. And that’s why somebody today (blasphemous as it sounds!) must bat for him.

Let me dare try.
Ours is a country that plays a hundred games and plays only one. Hockey maybe our official sport but cricket is the national balm. The fates of Saturday nights and Monday mornings (and indeed the whole week) are decided between three stumps on one end and three on another. In this world that weighs down upon the being with all its cosmic strength, the duel between willow and leather is an escape valve.
And so to be robbed of our parole is an unforgivable criminal act. And as a crime has victims, so must it also have a perpetrator. But before we turn our knee-jerk reactions into a free-for-all kicking session, let us stop. And spare a thought for the man.

True that the stage was set for a Sachin Special.
True, Sachin failed against Sri Lanka in an extremely crucial match.
True that the standards he has set have been so lofty that any drop seems like a plummet.
True too that the yardstick will always be less forgiving if your jersey number reads 10.

But for all those truisms, there is another, equal fact.

India’s inability to not make it to the Super 8s cannot be hung squarely on the shoulders of any one person. No matter how broad those shoulders are. In that final match, 5 of our 7 batsmen failed – including Uthappa for 14, Ganguly for 6, Dhoni for a duck and Yuvraj for 7.

These things happen in sport. The tragedy with Indian cricket is that cricket for us isn’t just a sport. And what “happens” in sport happened to so many of our star batsmen, all in the same day. And it happened when we had no buffer points under our belt, in a “perform or perish” game.

In the past, Sachin was the XI. When he got out, the team crumbled. Today, we pride ourselves that that is no longer the case. So why now, when we need a scapegoat?
In fact, one of the biggest criticisms of Sachin over the years has been that he hasn’t won enough games for India. Contrast this with what Srinath, the firebrand ex-bowler had to say after Sachin hit a valiant 136 in Chennai (and 5 batsmen in the Indian tail couldn’t manage 17 runs, leaving Pakistan to resuscitate themselves to a victory): “Is it that Sachin has let down the team, or that the team has let down Sachin?”
Sadly, many Sachin hundreds have been for lost causes and the gods have been unfair to him. But must we be the same?

Because you may question his form, but you cannot question his commitment towards the team. To say that he’s “batting for a glittering array of statistics” is the cruelest jibe to a man who has for 17 years worn his passion on his sleeve, whose body bears the scars of his dedication.

As Rahul Dravid said after the Lankan debacle: “no one knows more than the players the enormity of the defeat.”

And while one game (or two) may make a player, it cannot – and should not break one.
Sachin knows he’s let himself down. Let us down. Let India down. Let us not single him out or rub it in. Let us instead, be fair if we cannot be magnanimous.

Today, I fear Sachin may need us like never before. He needs to know that the people he’s thrilled and made happy, won’t be the ones adding to his already considerable grief.

Only Sachin knows how many years of cricket he has left in him. He knows his game, his mastery of it and what goes on inside his head. If he feels he can still be a proud champion of Indian cricket, let us humbly listen.

Sachin has given us so much. Let us not be the ones to take it away from him, for in denying him we become poorer.
God willing, for some more years to come, we will still be treated to straight drives that will take our breath away, still watch the walk, see the head turned to the sky and hear the stands reverberate with the chant.

In the 22 yards called Sachin Tendulkar, we have loved the man in the boy, and the boy in the man. And both have loved cricket with every breath. But if the experts say that it doesn’t look like the Sachin of today enjoys his cricket anymore, let it not be because of us.

peace, love, empathy
ram cobain
2nd April 2007


ab Lahore door nahin

Every once in a while (a really long while, mind you), there comes an opportunity that justifies everything. It turns apprehensions into happy certainties, every effort into an act of love and ordinary men into heroes.

Our trip to Lahore was just that.

It all goes back some 8-9 months. I remember my conversation with Daddu during the 2003 World Cup, when Sachin decided to end the ‘irresistible force vs. immovable object’ debate once and for all. The public whipping that Shoaib Akhtar received at the hand of the master is etched on every half-interested cricket fan’s brain like burnt egg on a non-stick kettle, but only tastier.
There and then, in a half-choked/half-runaway voice, the two of us vowed that should India ever tour Pakistan, we would definitely go, inshallah.

In hindsight, the sweetest thing about the tour is the fact that we pulled it off. No big group, no travel package, no bookings, no information, no local contacts– in fact, no clue about how to go about the whole thing. Only plenty of niggling doubts, voices in the head and those belonging to others warning us of the hara-kiri we were about to commit. Plus the fact the trip was just 10 days before a huge client Sales Conference and yours truly is the only specialist copywriter in the group, and hence as valuable as a forged Brazilian passport for ol’ Bin Laden. My pear-shaped partner too had just returned from a 2-week-long annual leave and so was not the best contender for another holiday. I can hear you saying “wow!” already, but then if you know us well, chances are you’re not surprised :-)

There’s a lot of talk of Pakistanis making Indians feel right at home. We got a clue of the welcome that awaited us across the border when we uninterruptedly peed on the Pakistan Embassy walls (two times each!). Don’t blame us though– they only had one Visa window open, the line was longer than Santa Claus’ ‘get me’ list and there was no other loo in sight.

----------------- 19th March 2004:

So loaded with exactly 6 grand per person, a reassuring fax confirmation from the National Hotel, old Lahore (where Gaurav Dudeja is invitingly spelled as Gaurav Deja) and our India tees, we reached the Ambedkar Stadium Bus Terminal. It’s 4 a.m., and no – neither of us used a Shivam cab (company transport for golden employees) to get there. The bus is the same one that Vajpayee took, so we figure it’ll do. We’re impressed by the security arrangements- the guards are thorough, luggage is scanned and the sniffer dog growls at Daddu. And after a reluctant interview to Aaj Tak, we’re off!

There’s a bottle of mineral water and a newspaper at every seat, and Sholay playing on the bus DVD. It’s a 12-hour ride with 3 stops for breakfast, lunch and tea (all paid for!). Better still – there are two heavily armed Police jeeps leading the way, and one more in the back! Red light flashing, sirens wailing, traffic is shooed from our path like dandruff from a coat shoulder. Kya feel hain! Finally the world acknowledges our VIP status!

We reach the Wagah border at precisely 3 p.m. Customs and Immigrations are a real pain. There are countless papers to present, and still many more to keep safe. And considering that the only other time I’ve gone abroad is at that age when I couldn’t tell a blonde from a brunette, and that Daddu has travelled extensively only in his graphic fantasies – the process is quite taxing. Plus it’s time to change our rupees into Pakistani ones. Touts of all sizes, shapes and smells tug at us, and we willingly get swept towards one desk. Gandhis are happily exchanged for Jinnahs, and few get the irony.

All formalities done, our bus trundles into Pakistan. Instantly, nervous clapping erupts in the bus as everyone realizes that India is suddenly shut to us. A small turn of the bus’ wheels, a giant step for Ram and Daddu. A grim looking Pakistani Ranger (to our conditioned minds, every Pakistani looks grim!) enters the bus and walks down the aisle, checking. We all have polite, ‘friendly’ smiles stuck on our faces – we’re happy to be in Pakistan, thank you!

We step off the bus at their side of Wagah and await clearance. This is the first feel of ‘enemy’ soil. We sniff the air, grin foolishly and gape like a couple of old men at a strip bar. We’re actually in Pakistan!! The moment is overwhelming. This is what every Indian has identified with, thought and cursed about for years. Funnily, it doesn’t look any different from back home. There are no sullen stares, no mujahideen waiting in the bushes, no cyanide pills in our welcome tea. Instead, we find the Pakistanis smiling at us shyly, and we smile back. As we board the bus and it meanders towards Faletti Hotel (the drop spot), people on the road wave. It’s around 7 p.m. and the sun is setting, but you can’t make that out from their faces.

We’ve made friends with a team of 10 from Aaj Tak (travelling non-officially!), and we decide to book ourselves into their hotel. Their travel agent assures us that one more room won’t be a problem, and we’re only too glad. Staying with 10 other like-minded (and like-aged) Indians at a hotel that’s 5 minutes away from Gadaffi Stadium is infinitely more attractive then calling upon Mr. Tariq at the National Hotel, old Lahore (if you don’t remember why, please refer to para 5, 2nd line).

Liberty Hotel greets us with rose garlands and complimentary Pepsis, and we’re touched. The staff is beaming, and there’s no hiding the genuine warmth in their handshakes. “Welcome to Pakistan” is the common refrain, and we hear someone say “namaste” too. The rooms are decent – strong a/c, double bed, TV without remote, one tubelight strategically positioned by an insomniac electrician and a phone that must have been Alex Bell’s prototype. The loo is spacious too, so what if the shower is broken and a funny looking sherbet pourer doubles up as the bum-irrigator as well as the bathing mug! At a time when even a bus shelter will cost anywhere between 4000 and 8000 Pakistani rupees a night, our deal at 2000 bucks a day is awesome. Mana nahin karenge, as some wise men have been known to say.

After a hasty wash for me (and a loud booming noise in the loo for Daddu), we decide to check out Lahore. Our first stop is a PCO booth to inform anxious kin that we haven’t been kidnapped and won’t be appearing on an Al-Jazeera broadcast. The booth is located in an underground market, and we’re a little wary of leaving the open skies for a cramped hole where screams for help won’t reach the first step. But brave as we are, we descend and discover 2 things:
a) Phone calls (international or local) are outrageously expensive in Pakistan (new technology always costs more!), and
b) No 2 PCOs have the same ‘pulse’ system (I saved 20 bucks over a same duration call made by Daddu, yippee!)

Dinner is our next quest, and our worst shock yet. True, there are appetizing rolls of kebabs, beef sausages, Gosht, mutton whatnots and other severed limbs - only both of us are pure vegetarians! Searching for veg. food in Pakistan is like hunting for an untampered auto meter in Delhi. We ask for alu, and the waiter adds a thoughtful suffix – keema We ask for daal, and hallelujah – he smiles!! An instant later, we discover that daal for them is a heap of dry, yellow grain. It’s reassuringly called daal maash, and floats on a sea of weird-looking oil. ‘Beef tallow’ screams in our heads, but we’re tired. An open mind and empty stomach can prepare you for anything.

After food and a stroll, it’s time to hit the sack. If I’d thought dinner was my worst nightmare, I’m sadly mistaken. Sharing a bed with Daddu is like sleeping next to a dormant volcano. But the seasoned roomie that I am, the small explosions go unheard. It’s only the 4am alarm that I dread.

----------------- 20th March 2004:

A broken sleep later, we wake up to a nice, sunny morning. Breakfast is eggs and toast (ok, so we aren’t pure vegetarians!). We stuff ourselves happily and get ready. Today’s the day we collect our match tickets! The venue for collection is just across the road. 3 hours later, we emerge with paper literally worth its weight in gold. Now the entire day’s ours to roam. Lahore, be warned – India’s shining best is loose on your roads!

Anarkali Bazaar comes highly recommended, and we hail an auto. Now, compared to the ones plying on our side of the Wagah, these are shockingly tiny. You have to literally maneuver yourself into one, and even then your knees are in for a scraping. Their autos also have small swinging doors attached – which my claustrophobic pal mercifully gets removed. Little does he hear my sigh of relief. Nothing like being trapped with Daddu in a closed 2#3 space for 15 kilometers.

Anarkali Bazaar is situated in Old Lahore and as our auto splutters on, the change in the cityscape becomes very obvious. While New Lahore (especially in the area that we were staying) is very cosmopolitan in look- clean, wide smooth roads, grass knolls as dividers, fountains and Toyota Corollas (though somewhat dusty and beat-up) – Old Lahore is like our Jama Masjid area. Narrow lanes, people popping from nowhere but miraculously managing not to collide, and small rickshaws. There’s a clear change in dress too. Pathani suits, long beards and a heavy smell of ittr. To be honest, we were somewhat scared. To be more honest, pretty scared. For if there ever was a picture of extremist Pakistan in our minds, this is it. And here we are, 2 Indians in the heart of Old Lahore, dressed in jeans, clean-shaven and sticking out like a food bill for a national holiday! We kept muttering to ourselves – “Just smile politely, keep looking ahead, don’t stare back.” Inevitably, shopkeepers and the junta too curiously looks at us, and introductions are made. The tension immediately disappears. Again, we were overawed by the sheer value of the word ‘India’. Shopkeepers shake hands and offer special discounts, and stories of pre-partition days follow. One seller who had fled from ‘Mussourie Pahad’ has tears in his eyes as he asks us about his native place. Some questions are touching in their sheer innocence – this guy asked us whether Delhi-Bombay is “walking distance” while others ask us if we’ve met Shilpa Shetty (Bollywood is a huge rage in Pakistan). It’s a bonus that Daddu’s parents are originally from Multan, and we were treated like family. The hours just slip by, and many memorable moments later (like chatting with an old vendor who is a big Saurav Ganguly fan), it’s time to call it a day. So what did we buy from a Bazaar famous for its Pathani suits, bangles and non-veg delicacies? 2 glasses of fruit juice each.

By now, it around 6 in the evening, and we’re famished. A roadside cafĂ© near our hotel beckons us, and the staff is extremely kicked to have Indian diners. We say, “Pyaar toh bahut mil gaya, kuch vegetarian milega kya?” They mercifully agree to prepare a special dish of potatoes, carrots and peas. As we’re gobbling it down, I notice 2-3 dark brown lumps that clearly have non-plant origins. The waiter dismisses my concerns, saying, “Sir, voh kuch nahin…sirf meat hain.” We realize that the same gravy has been used in our preparation. Daddu shrugs his shoulders, we separate the brown thingies and continue eating. Right now, we’d kill for a plateful of cold office maggi.

----------------- 21st March 2004:

Aaah…it’s match day! We get up at 6 a.m. and slip into our war fatigues. The India tees at once make us feel proud and vulnerable. After all, it’s one thing to tell a kind face that you’re from India and another to shout it to all and sundry. Now we know what Bruce Willis felt when he wore that “I hate niggers” signboard in Harlem. But then, caution has never been one of out strong points. We ask the Pakistani hotel manager to take a snap of us holding the Indian flag, and then get going. We’ve heard that this one restaurant makes chole-bhature in the mornings, and we take it as a good omen. As we walk towards the narrow gully where it is situated, we hear some Pakistanis saying: “Dekho – chaude ho kar jaa rahen hain” (“See, they’re flaunting their Indianness!”). We enter the restaurant, and take extremely non-conspicuous seats. The chole-bhature arrives, and it’s worth every once of tension. Jai Hind! We have 2 plates each, and wash it down with some mindboggling tea.
Wonder what people see in non-veg anyway?

We’re the first two people in the queue (it’s 8 a.m.!) and some 3 hours later, we’re the first two people inside the stadium! Our stand is known as the Fazal Mahmood Stand, and it’s one of the best ones there. For some untold reason, the security guys stop the line right after the first 4 guys are in. So for close to 45 minutes, we’re the only 2 Indians in a stadium overflowing with Pakistani policia. What a feeling! A huge empty stadium, 2 Indians in screaming blue tees and some 4000 gun-toting guards! The very air is electrifying, and reality sinks in for the first time. We’re actually in Pakistan, and are about to watch a decisive India-Pakistan battle!

The crowd starts filling up, and we realize that there isn’t any separate enclosure for Indians. We’re a wee bit apprehensive, but the moment is too big to worry about. Seats are numbered, and we’ve got a killer view – high above the ground and at the long off. From where we’ll be sitting, you can see Shoaib Akhtar charging in and Sachin Tendulkar taking guard!

By 12.30 or so itself, our throats are hoarse with cheering and the match is still 2 hours away! Indian fans and Pakistanis are shouting in chorus, running in the aisles with the tricolour and the green crescent held together. You would have never thought that there were any bitter feelings between the two nations. Complete strangers are shaking hands with each other, smiling whole-heartedly and greeting each other like reunited brothers. Inevitably, there are many attention beggars too – this bearded moron keeps saying “Hindustan-Pakistan dosti zindabad!” and does an irritating jig, especially when he feels the camera is on him. To be honest, we’re somewhat weary with the ‘friendship’ theme. It’s one thing to hug a Pakistani and quite another to root for Pakistan. Aakhir mithaas ki bhi had hoti hai. So just as the fraternity feeling is at its peak, the two of us run down the aisle and unfurl our own banner in full glory: “Remember Centurion?” Centurion of course, was the venue of their World Cup debacle; the last time India faced Pakistan and Sachin did the honours. The mood in Gadaffi immediately changes – a sweet, 50 + Pakistani uncle shows us the finger, there’s anger etched on every half-bearded face and loud roars of approval from the Indian contingent. We somehow manage to make it to our seats, unharmed.

A Pakistani family is sitting right behind us, and their daughter is a big India fan! She asks us shyly if she can have our flag, and we’re too awestruck to answer. She drapes the flag over her shoulders and cheers loudly every time an Indian batsman hits a boundary. Wow!

We find two empty seats in a fully-Indian row, and shift base there. Not for security fears but because we’ll be so much louder there. The rows behind us are filled completely with young (and thankfully urban) Pakis and we instantly hit it off. I think I mentioned that Bollywood is a rage here, but we came to know its exact extent only in the stadium. At one stage, India was 94/4 and we were expectedly quiet. In this morose silence, we hear a chuckle and a voice from their camp adds: “Itna sannata kyon hai bhai, Gabbar aa gaya kya?”

Talking about the nice crowd, it would be sacrilegious to not mention the Pakistani women. I think it’s worth patching up with the Pakis just for the chaaaaaaaance of getting to know their femmes. There was this shorthaired fair goddess sitting with the Paki gang we befriended. (Mom, guess this means ‘no’ to that oil-dripping, computer-literate, Carnatic-singing Thiruvananthapuram bahu you would have had in mind!)

Getting back to on-field action, we realize that a hungry belly can’t fuel a yelling throat for long. It’s time to grab a bite. Inside the stadium (with some 3000 Indians), we are confident of finding something vegetarian. But it’s apparent that Pakistani hospitality does not extend in this direction. The stalls are loaded with keema samosas, mutton biryanis, beef rolls, chicken tikkas and other dead bodies. The match will end at around 11p.m. and we’ve been here since 8 in the morning. We pick up a couple of ice-creams, Pepsi & chips and return to our seats.

The match is tense, gripping, and the atmosphere is awesome. There’s a Mexican wave going, and it’s a crazy feeling to be part of something that travels so fast. Just as we’re suitably awed (and tired), an anonymous pioneer starts a whistle wave. Imagine 4000 people in one enclosure all whistling at once…and then the adjacent 4000 pick it up and so on – till you can actually ‘feel’ the sound moving from stand to stand! Good respite for the larynx too!

The target is 293, and we’re watching each ball with bated breath. Every time we’ve loudly cheered a batsman, a wicket has fallen. We decide to “shut the f#*k up” till we’re within sniffing (or is it biting?) distance of the mammoth Pakistani total. The friendly Pakis are very sporty - they’re now singing “dil ke armaan aasuon mein beh gaye! We ignore them and vow that if (and inshallah when!) we win, we’ll give it back. But that time seems a lifetime away.

Finally!!! India’s last recognized pair (Dravid & Kaif!) are still batting, and the score is 260/5. Just 34 more to get, a million balls remaining and 5 wickets in hand! Now where are those Pakis? We get up and with a roar, ask: “Itna sannata kyon hai bhai, Gabbar aa gaya kya?” There’s no answer. A few balls later, the home crowd starts trickling away. Our hands are blood red, but only a traitor won’t be clapping.

We’ve won! Daddu hugs me like he’s seeing me after 14 years, and we turn around to do a bit of our own singing. Facing 8000 shattered Pakis, we begin “Saare jahan se achcha…” and the other Indians join us. Nothing on Earth can compare to bellowing your national song in the face of countless Pakis right after India has defeated Pakistan in Pakistan (I’m sure we must have pissed off many security guards – thank god they didn’t have itchy fingers!). In fact, fresh goosebumps are appearing as I’m typing this.

We leave the stadium, hugging every man in blue. An innovative Sardarji whisks out a dhol from nowhere, and there’s bhangra happening on the streets of Lahore! We join in the frenzy and after many more hugs, find ourselves at our hotel. We change and head towards a fairly ‘western’ joint for dinner. With a completely useless look at the menu, we request the Manager to make us plain cheese pizzas. He agrees, and we have a feast. Of course, there’s cold coffee to wash it down.

----------------- 22nd March 2004:

 We wake up tired, but happily so. We came, we saw, we conquered! And now it’s time to go home. We ask our waiter to get us an English Paki newspaper – we’re damn eager to see the headlines, and pose for a snap with the paper (sort of like the hostage videos!). Our waiter does the needful, and as he’s pouring us the tea, asks us whether we have a spare India tee. He wants to wear one, and he says that guys in his village are big India fans! Well, what can one say? We give him both of ours. We were planning to keep them as happy mementos, but there’s no way to look at our waiter in the eye and refuse. His love is real.

We hire a cab to Faletti Hotel (buses for Wagah leave from there!) and cross our fingers. You see, our visas expire today and so we have to get out of Pakistan, no matter what. Do or die, as Gandhi said. The only hitch is that no buses leave for India today, and our visas strictly require us to use the same mode of transport back. If you came by bus, you gotta go by bus! We decide to take a chance at Wagah, and see if they’re allowing visitors to cross the border by foot. After all, we have nothing to lose except our freedom.

Bismillah ur rehman ur rahim – they’re allowing cricket-visa holders to walk the Wagah! We shove our passports for processing, and are asked to produce our Visa papers (a funny sheet filled in quadruplicate; a copy each must be submitted at Immigration/Emigration).
Problem is, we’ve left ours at the hotel.

We beg and plead with the officials. Tell them that we’ve had a wonderful trip and are carrying back fond memories of Pakistan. That they can tally their records with the visa stamp on our passports. Nothing moves them. Rules are rules, they say. We try to look as innocent and pathetic as possible, neither of which comes naturally to us.

A guard asks one of us to step inside. There are 5 of us – 3 of our pals from Aaj Tak too. He empathizes with us, and says that our hotel is at least 30 kms from the border. In order to save us the inconvenience of going back and getting the Visa papers, this kind soul is willing to accept ‘cab charges’, a mere Rs. 1000/- in all. We bargain, claim we are broke students and offer Rs. 500/-. The deal is struck for Rs. 600/-. People are the same on either side of the border.

Wow! We’re actually walking the Wagah. Even the phrase has a nice ring to it. This is something not allowed normally, and we’re thrilled to be a part of history. The road is wide, clean and lined with Pakistani Rangers. They’re dressed in all-black, with a comforting slogan on the back: 'No Fear’. They glare at us, till we ask them to pose for a snap. Then on, it’s all smiles and “hope you come again!”

 We stand on ‘No Man’s Land’ – a small area that belongs neither to India or Pakistan and faces both gates. It’s unbelievable how an extremely undistinguished stretch of tar can make your spine tingle with joy, and the hairs on the back of the neck jump.

We walk another 5ft. and are back on Indian soil. Phew! A wonderful trip aside, there’s no equivalent to having your feet (and the rest of you) firmly planted in India. We can pee on the countryside (and Daddu can blow his horn) and no one will say anything. There’s truly no place like home.

Ignoring shouts of “chilled beer!” from the roadside dhabas (they’re aware that Pakistan is officially as dry as an unopened diaper!), we hire a taxi to Amritsar station. The two of us have seats on the Shatabdi Express to Delhi. We reach Amritsar early and visit the Golden Temple, which is humbling. Then it’s back to the station to catch the train.

All good things must come to an end. Euphoria bursts as we near Delhi – it’s around 11 p.m. and my dogged Horlicks Client Servicing guy has called. He wants to know if I’m back, as there work waiting at the studio next morning.

----------------- Final thoughts:

So how was it, should a low-IQ reader finally ask? Apart from all that is written above, there is much more. Innumerable stories of warmth, touching hospitality and little bits that mean a lot. Like the dhabawallah in Liberty Market, who vehemently refused payment for our dinner. The strangers who gave us a lift till Gadaffi Stadium, saying that “how can our guests walk till there?” The unknown man-in-the-stadium-queue, who paid for our Pepsis while we waited for the gates to open. The bookstore that gave me a 30% discount after learning that we were Indians. The waiter who said, “Inshallah – kal aapki team jeete, aap itne door se khas dekhne aaye ho!” Our Paki pals in the stadium, who roughed up other Pakis (as these guys were unwilling to vacate our seats saying “no one’s sitting according to the seat numbers”). The list is really endless.

The match aside, the best thing about the ‘Bus to Pakistan’ has been a shattering of perceptions. If die-hard Paki haters like me and Daddu can change, it should be easier for others. Some 50 years ago, a huge mistake was made. Only a fool would continue to propagate it.

Peace, love, empathy
Ram Cobain
Gaurav Dudeja

the crash chronicles

Friends, well-wishers and all those who would rightly view my bereavement as a national catastrophe – I’m back!

After all, I’ve always believed that you can’t keep a good thing down. But before I get swept by another wave of self pity, let my exert some of that cobain willpower and return to the real purpose of this note. Which of course is to pen down the most memorable parts of
The Event. Call it an official reporting if you will. Or a crisp statement for the paparazzi. And ahem- check whether this copywriter (Oops, Senior Copywriter hehe!) is still capable of writing decently, ‘Compound Frontal Cranial Fracture with an Edema’ notwithstanding!

So here goes:

March 9th 2003, 6.30 p.m.: I pick up keys of the Royal Enfield Thunderbird. A 350cc chrome ‘n’ silver brute. Bought with Rs. 77,000 of my own sweat (and not the company’s blood – Daddu, please note!) while earning a princely pay of 12.5 grand a month.

March 10th –November 15th 2003: Employee dissatisfaction in my firm, JWT rises sharply for reasons unknown. Demands for increments are voiced extra loudly. Observation reveals this happens more in the parking lot vicinity.
I master the feat of riding the Thunderbird with both arms in the ‘Jesus Christ pose’, and the tougher art of ignoring envious glances at red lights.

November 16th 2003, 7.00 p.m.: I polish the beast with a newly bought bottle of Waxpol. The occasion – catching up with Jakarta deported boss & mentor Juhi, her hubby Amit and close friend/co-golden-employee Gaurav Dudeja a.k.a. Daddu.

November 17th 2003, 1 a.m.: A wee distance before the IIT crossing, there’s a cyclist driving in right lane (though undoubtedly it’s the wrong lane for him…and consequently me!). I see him at the defining second, and in a gesture of supreme sacrifice, swerve handle viciously.
Thunderbird and rider hit pavement at 70 kmph.

November 17th 2003, 1.10 a.m.: Passing car stops, helps me up. Woman in car panics on seeing my condition. I think, “Typical female overreaction”, and call home from my cell calmly, informing kith & kin about minor accident. I look at bike’s mirror, see for the first time a stream of blood and gooey liquid, and realize that that the bike’s first-aid kit won’t help. And then, in a display of Herculean presence of mind, I remember to throw away my contact lenses.
They were anyways nearing the expiry date.

November 17th 2003, 1.20 a.m.: In a departure from Bollywood movies, a PCR arrives in the thick of action, proving “With you, for you, always” is not etched idly on the vehicle. I remember sitting in the backseat, shaking violently as shock sets in, and a policeman with surprising gentleness massaging my hands and saying, “We’re just about to reach AIIMS, hang on.” I lose consciousness.

November 17th 2003, 1.40 a.m.: Time is truly relative, images hazy. I express profound regret on my Rudra metal tee being cut away by neurosurgeons (as it can’t be removed from over my head!). Strangely, my parent’s don’t seem to share my concern. I see their faces (and Riju’s parents, Juhi’s, Amit’s, my brother’s and lot many others’) flash in moments of clarity. Fade to black.

November 17th 2003, time unknown: I look up to see a face in a green mask tugging at my skull. I realize he’s suturing my head. I apprise him of my own medical knowledge: “Doctor, am I on local anaesthesia?” He nods, and I drift away. We’re both satisfied.

November 17th 2003, 11 a.m.: I wake up in a room beeping like a Nokia dealers’ meet, and realize it’s the ICU. Every part of me aches horribly- my upper body feels like it’s on fire, my neck feels like its been massaged with a pickaxe, and my arms feel like they’ve been used by elephants in a tug-of-war. I also discover that my right eye is swollen shut. I’m repeatedly questioned by anyone in a green or white coat – “Accident kaise hua/kab hua/kyon hua?” I try and patiently (pun intended…top this one, boss!) answer them. But everything has a breaking point, you know. So when this head nurse walks in (this is question # 34522) and asks, “How did you get here?”, there can only be one reply.
“On a stretcher”, I answer.

November 17th 2003, 12 noon: The inevitable happens. I want to pee. I look around and can only spot nurses walking busily. The only male being in the room, alas, is me. Resignedly, I hail a ‘sister-in-transit’ and tell her I want to go to the loo. She looks at me, gestures at the antibiotic drip attached to my left arm and says, “You can’t get up.” She also calls for a male orderly, and spares me any embarrassment by loudly proclaiming, “Inko pishaab kara doh.” I feel like a pup on a leash. The orderly leaves me and returns an instant later, holding a cylindrical metal bottle with a funnel top. And he too loudly says, “Side pe late jao aur iss mein karo.” Hello! I’m not peeing under the covers into some metal bottle blessed by countless vacationers before me, am I? I’m Ram Cobain, after all.
I refuse the bottle and stoically hold on.

November 17th 2003, 12.30 noon: But when you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go- no matter what your name is. I beg for the bottle like an alcoholic in throes of withdrawal, and the orderly gives it to me – luckily without a smile. I turn around, hope that no one’s looking at me (and that my aim under covers is good!) and let go. Aaah, praise the lord! I hand a very heavy bottle back to the orderly, lean back and close my good eye.
And pray that I don’t get an urge to shit.

November 17th 2003, 2.30 p.m.: I refuse a slice of toast but accept a glass of milk. By now, a first-year nursing student has been assigned to take care of me. It’s difficult to say who is more nervous between the two of us. But she manages just fine. She’s extremely compassionate and caring. She cuts my nails (as nails are a prime carrier of infection) and scrubs me with a hot towel. I fall asleep and keep seeing the pavement in my mind’s eye. When I get up, it’s time for me to be shifted into the ward. She wishes me a fast recovery, reassuringly saying that all will be fine. God bless her.
I don’t even know her name.

November 17th 2003, 04.30 p.m.: I’m in the critical section (as a nurse told me later) of the General Ward. There are 5 other beds with patients with super-gory wounds. As I haven’t been near a mirror, I can only wonder how I must be looking in comparison.
The sharp intakes of breath by visitors tell me that I’m very much in contention for the top 3.

November 17th 2003, 2.30 p.m.: I’m treated by awesome doctors – Dr. Mahapatra and his team (a special prayer for you, Dr. Sumit). They tell my parents that it’s a miracle I’m alive. That if the wound had been half an inch deeper (or if the fracture had ‘caved in’), I might have either been chatting with my ancestors or would’ve become a veggie! The CT scan reveals a Compound Frontal Cranial Fracture (that’s a big term for a big fracture to the front of the skull). I also have an Edema (a swelling inside the head somewhere) and a Haemotoma in the right eye (which translates to a bursting of blood vessels).
Plus an anonymous collection of bruises all over.

November 17th 2003, 06.00 p.m.: I very much want to be shifted to a private ward ‘coz I’m not sure of the state of the toilets in the General Ward. And I sure won’t be using a cold bedpan in public view! Riju’s dad (A very good, and cool doctor in AIIMS itself) is insistent that we stay in the General Ward, as the treatment and supervision is a 100 times better here. My mom begs me to listen, and I agree. The last thing I want to do is give her more tension. Plus the doctors have said that I can walk to the loo (if I can manage, i.e.), and a careful inspection tells me that the toilets are acceptably clean. Everyone’s happy.

November 17th 2003, 06.30 p.m.: Juhi is back again (after an all-night vigil at the Emergency) and Daddu is there too. It would be an insult to call them ‘friends’ when they’re so much more. I feel a lot better already. Their presence also helps block out the positive vibes from the woman on Bed 4, who keeps crying out, “Hai, main marr gayi!/God, I think I’m dying!”

November 17th 2003, 9.00 p.m.: My elder brother, Karthik stays the night with me (Every patient is allowed one attendant only). And oh – today is his birthday. I wish him and he smiles. He holds my arm as we slowly walk to the loo for me to pee. Once there, I manage on my own. As I leave the urinal, I sneak my first look at my reflection in the bathroom mirror. Wow! My right eye’s still swollen shut, and it’s the size of a cricket ball and as black as a burnt nigger in a Cherry Blossoms factory fire. There’s also a huge bandage on my forehead, my hair’s been half-shaved off (no big loss, everyone tells me!). And unknown to me, a neck collar too is on its way too.
I realize why the prettier nurses haven’t stopped to chat.

November 17th 2003, 10.00 p.m.: My entire upper body feels like someone’s playing Naughts ‘n’ Crosses on it with broken glass. The pain’s almost hallucinogenic. I can well empathize well with Hannibal Lecter’s victims.
The good part is, I no longer mind the numbing feeling on my skull.

November 18th 2003, 9.30 a.m.: An MRI reveals Cervical Degeneration to the neck, because of the whiplash on impact. Seems like nerves there have got inflamed, and hence the pain. I’m put on steroids. I’m also made to wear a throttling collar 24 hrs. a day.
Guess that means no more headbanging for a while.

November 18th 2003, 2.30 p.m.: A computer controls the intravenous flow of steroids into my body. The nurse tells me that 80ml of steroids would be injected over the next 48 hours. The ‘drip’ adds intensely to the pain. I ask her if I couldn’t instead do a bottoms up and gulp it all down. She refuses.

November 18th 2003, 6.00 p.m.: Nothing like friends, family and good wishes to cheer you up! My good buddy and art partner Sandy drops in, and I feel much better. So what if he goes back to office and confides in the gang, “Mujhe lagta hain Ram tapak jaayega.”
(Which politely translates into “I don’t think Ram will make it”.)

November 19th 2003, 11.00 p.m.: I just can’t get any sleep. It’s damn tough when your entire body aches. That’s not taking credit away from the antibiotic IV in my arm and a hangman-patented neck collar. Stephen King’s ‘Pet Sematary’ doesn’t help much too.

November 20th 2003, 5.30 p.m.: After 4 days, 22 skull stitches, 75 odd injections and a Ph. D on the smell of hospital antiseptic, I’m ready to go. Today’s my Discharge Day! Hallelujah! I hurriedly (and painfully!) get out of the cell clothes. And just after I’ve changed, a nurse ambles across and says that the discharge has been cancelled.
A good doctor with a sense of humour wants to observe me for another day.

November 21st 2003, 5.30 p.m.: I’m finally leaving! Juhi and my parents hold the bed sheet as a makeshift curtain while I slowly change. I feel like a Vietnam War hero. The nurses say that I’m looking much better. Relief of going home can add a definite glow to your cheeks.

That’s that, I guess. I’ve spent nearly 2 months at home recovering, and at times I’ve even come close to missing Horlicks Medical Marketing. (Gagan, please note the emphasis on the word ‘almost’). It’s been one crazy ride, from learning to keep the neck immobile while Black Sabbath plays on, to becoming accustomed to the morbid gawks of passerbys. But I’m not complaining. It’s nice to see the sunrise, and sleep knowing you’ve got a great, truly awesome bunch of friends/well-wishers. But of course, some of you are much more than even that. You know who you are, so I’ll spare you the pink blushes of individual citations. If only I had known earlier that I was so popular, I might have run for the PM’s job. Seriously. Thanks for everything – you’ve made it worth coming back J

peace, love, empathy
ram cobain 5th Jan 2004

P.S. – that thing they say about “your whole life flashes in front of your eyes….”- it’s a giant hoax!

metal behind the madness

“So you listen to Metal…whatever went wrong??” Today, a metal-head here is looked upon with as much empathy as one would accord to a dodo—a rarity sure to get extinct. The funny thing is, we still survive.

Is there anything more to metal than sheer ‘noise’?? In India, less than 0.25% of the population listens to any genre of metal. And from this staggering figure, if you remove all pseudos who think metal is embodied by the inimitable Jon Bon Jovi, and all those seen at rock shows doing the latest Hrithik Roshan dance step, you’ve got a bare handful.
So I guess the majority belief must be true, huh? “Get a bunch of scruffy, equally talentless anti-socials shaking their heads trying to innovatively commit suicide while either playing loud, untuned guitars, or simulating that action, and you’ve got metal!!” Right??


The biggest problem with metal is that its been judged by people who think it to be something SAIL makes, and used prominently in bathroom fittings. Have those who pass such a verdict ever even heard metal properly?? Atleast we guys who don’t eagerly buy the latest Bhupi tape know what indipop and its sister acts sound like. Having grown up here, no one can avoid being exposed to a certain amount of the “happening” music, and after that if we abstain, its because we don’t like it.
Then again, if we don’t dance at the few parties we cannot avoid, we’re labeled as “snobs”. I think the real problem is the other forms of music require some sort of collective sanction, that pleasure doesn’t come from within, but from without. But metal is a source of individual release, and does not really require a crowd for its working. Ofcourse, more adds to it, but less does not subtract. You’ll never find a metal-head urging, if not irritatingly coercing, others to headbang.

True, metal requires time and a certain level of exposure to be palatable. But isn’t that true of all forms of music?? Can you readily put on a Mozart or a Bach tape and enjoy it if you aren’t a fan of western classical?? But not even a Daler Mehndi (another Punjabi pop-god!) freak will dare call it nonsense. Then why discriminate against metal??

True, metal sounds very belligerent and unmelodic to the untrained ear. But does that denote lack of talent?? Ask any guitarist worth his salt whether it is easier to play Boyzone or Metallica and you’ll get your answer. Metal focuses more on speed and timing, but not necessarily at the cost of melody.

True, most metal videos feature unkempt men who would probably never be customers of Armani or Louis Phillippe. But is being yourself a crime?? Or is using women brazenly as sex symbols better?? At least metal does not require bare assed, skimpily clad women to sell. The music itself is strong enough.

Metal for metal-heads is more than just music. It’s a lifestyle. It is the purest and most sublime form of self-expression, and of energy release. Its effects are enormously cathartic and invigorating. Put a tape on when you’ve got a headache, and watch the pain disappear. Switch on some metal before your exams and see your confidence soar. Can any one single drug boast of the same??

And you don’t have to be a loser to appreciate metal. Most of my good friends are students of India’s premier institutes, and those working are well settled. Also contrary to popular belief, metal does not encourage alcoholism or drug use. That is purely a personal decision. And their users are also most often those belonging to society’s lowest dregs, or/and the nouveau rich who throng the city’s most “hep” party spots. Neither of whom are metal-heads in any sense of the word.

Metal does have its flip side-of being aggressive and addictive. But in that sense, excess of anything is bad. Also, music is an emotional parameter and cannot be tried under strict laws of rationality, and most of all by a jury comprising ignorant yet prejudiced non- metal-heads. For as the Bible says- “Let he who has not sinned, cast the first stone.” Amen.

peace, love, empathy
ram cobain

Opeth – Lamentations (Live at Sheppard’s Bush Empire, England)

How do you critique a band that simply belies definition? How do you objectively set out to write about a live performance that has left you dazed, drunk and so glad that you are alive? Indeed, what can you say about an act that reminds you that life is about celebrating the senses and living the moment?
One can only try.
Opeth played at Sheppard’s Bush Empire, England, late last year – a wood coliseum just perfect for the occasion. As Mike Akerfeldt and his men took the stage, few would have had any notion of what was to follow. After all, no one can second-guess a band that goes from vulnerably beautiful acoustic parts in one instant to barbwire-stringed riffs in the next, that lulls you into a state of to unguarded bliss with lifting, clear vocals only to yank you into shocked sobriety with some rabid, cancer-ridden growling. But if the regulars had any expectations from the show, 2 hours of staggering, awe-inspiring magic from the enchantingly fragile ‘Damnation’ and the more savage ‘Deliverance’ did much more than just meet them.
To be honest, metal purists will find the first part of the gig (predominantly the ‘Damnation’ set) somewhat light on the palate– the band in fact doesn’t even headbang once! But in my opinion this only highlights the sheer musical latitude of the band, and their complete mastery in either form. Plus it serves as a perfect red herring for the coal-tar-gurgled attack of the second half. Gone is the unplugged lovemaking, gone are the feather-brush drum caresses, gone is the soothing singing. When the curtains part for the second time, it’s earwax-melting metal all the way (with Opeth’s unique coat of melody, of course). In fact, ‘Deliverance’ (the album) is probably the heaviest Opeth release yet. From the pickaxe massages of ‘Master’s Apprentices’ to the majestic title track to the sweeping, soaring grandeur of ‘A Fair Judgement’ – this is Opeth as they best sound.
The difference between a musician and an artist is clear once the person plays live. In this Swedish quartet’s case, there is need for a third qualifier. Opeth onstage is a tribute to the spirit, a wonder that music so beautiful, so flawless and with such a haunting aftertaste exists at all. It will thrill, elevate and humble you every time you press ‘play’.
Lamentations is a 14 song (+ in-depth band interview) digipak release by ‘Music for Nations’ records. You can place your orders at . My pre-order cost me just $12 but the actual sale price is $22. A tad expensive maybe- but then the bigger loss would be to not own the DVD.

peace, love, empathy
ram cobain

Deicide – The Scars of the Crucifix

Sometimes, one can remember nightmares in painful clarity long after daybreak – the images just burn in your mind and nothing you do will drive the demons away.

The same is true of the ‘Scars of the Crucifix’.

Decide’s latest hell-child is a welcome addition to the family, a worthy successor to the likes of their monstrous ‘Deicide’ and ‘Legion’ albums. Yes, that’s right. This record is right up there both in terms of the speed, savagery and numbing heaviness. And to make matters better (or is it worse?), the ‘Scars of the Crucifix’ has the catchiness of the ‘Serpents of the Light’ too!

If you’re a true Decide fan, I suggest you skip the rest of the review and just buy the record – it’s that good.

The ‘Scars of the Crucifix’ starts off to the chainsaw riff of the title track, and as your neck starts it’s familiar ‘detach me’ dance, you instantly know that happy days are here again. Glen Benton brutalizes the listener with his dual vocal attack – a searing combination of high-pitched screams and low growls that slice through the eardrums like an autopsy knife through butter, and deliverance is instant. This song is my favourite, though the choir chants of ‘Fuck your God’ is a close second.
It would be a travesty to try and give away too much by doing a song-by-song dissection here, and I won’t attempt it. The best part of the 9-track ‘Scars of the Crucifix’ is the sheer variation throughout. The last number, ‘The Pentecostal’, in fact has a haunting, clean guitar/no drums ending that sounds like the band’s requiem to the Crucifixion! But don’t get misled – this is classic Deicide all the way. The solos are among the fastest that the Hoffman brothers have played – stuff Kerry King would have his hands full with, and Steve on the drums makes sure that the first thing your fingers do after pressing the ‘stop’ button is to give your neck a massage.

My pre-order came with a free 35 min. DVD that captures the other side of the band, from Glen Benton’s passion for the Harley Davidson to Brian’s body tattoos and Steve’s gun collection. Plus interviews, swigs of Jack Daniels and other bits of what’s truly DEICIDE.

As if one needed any persuasion to buy the record.

Peace, love, empathy
Ram cobain