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August 14, 2008

Make love, not war. Bwahaha.

We were meeting after 20 years, the last we had seen each other was when we both were three feet tall, 8-years-old and lived in the same colony. Both our fathers were army officers and we both studied in catholic schools, he was a Sikh and me a Hindu. But such things didn't matter that time. Back then I was somewhat shy while he had been a regular 'naughty' boy. I clearly remember how one afternoon -- when parents were out for a gymkhana (army event) -- he showed us (a group of five kids) this music video with a big, round-buttocked woman walking around. He had sung along staring at her bum -- at age 8! -- singing, "Baby bloochi, baby bloochi!" and had watched our faces eagerly.

Now when we met, he wore no turban, had cut his hair and while I had stopped growing after reaching 5 feet, he stood at 6 feet 3 inches, towered over me and blushed when I reminded him of the baby bloochi episode. We sipped coffee and spoke about what had transpired in the intermittent years. We were 'childhood friends' in the way the army allows: You spend some years together and then move on when your parents are posted out, perhaps to meet again on another common posting or just to hear news about what the-kids-you-played-with. Now I was a journalist and he was an Army officer and the best way to acquaint each other with the new people we had become was to show our respective work files. Mine was thick with newspaper cuttings and his was a thin file with the trainings he had completed.

He was constantly amazed as he flipped through my cuttings. "Wow, you wanted to be a doctor back then...instead you met and interviewed all these celebrities," he said and asked about how I lived and how much I earned. He balked at the figure of Rs 50,000 that I threw at him and said modestly, "Arre yaar, you have achieved so much. After the DSOP and other tax is cut and since the army gives us accommodation and a batman, I get about 10,000 bucks as take home." Even as I tried to tell him -- without really believing it myself -- that nothing compares to the respect of being an Army officer I had flipped a page on his file and stopped. The page said that Captain Ahlowalia had been awarded the President's Recommendation for not allowing his boys to move forward and facing militants alone.

He was shot at for 10,000 bucks. I refused free gifts thinking I was being very ethical. And here I was offering to pay his coffee bill since I earned more. Terrorists, insurgency, bombs, shells... Thanks to TV, internet and newspapers (and war), these words are part of each of our lexicon's. But how many of us really appreciate their meaning?

Despite my father predicting dire consequences for our relationship if we continued playing Empire Earth (er, it's a strategy game on world domination), Partner and I have recently purchased the latest version of the game, Empire Earth III. Our evenings, when not meeting friends and not watching TV, are spent with him being the General and me, the Prime Minister. He is good at war mongering, I am good at developing a civilisation. Basically it means he controls the mouse while I "rabbit on" about strategy, how to increase research, which tank is better and why he needs to attack Scandinavia before taking on the Indian Ocean to advance to the next level of technical superiority. Till the evening where even as we planned to attack Eastern Seaboard, I looked at the on-mute TV and said, "Look, those tanks look like the ARV we have here. Told you ARVs are best at complete annih ilation."

Partner stopped, lunged at the remote and when he turned up the volume, the TV presentor declared, "Even as Russian tanks continue to roll in, Georgia has declared a state of war." It was bizarre. Where did the game end and where was reality? World domination? Nostradamus' prediction that would lead to World War 3? The truth is still enfolding and it's chilling.

In an interview with director Kim Peirce (Boys Don't Cry) on her latest movie Stop-Loss, Peirce said she wanted to make the war movie because "you don't realise what happens in war till it hits home". Her brother had chosen to join the war in Iraq and her family was distraught. What would we/you do if we wake up to our neighbourehood being bombed and tanks patrolling our streets? Will we stock up on food or will we take backups of our hard drives?

PS: For tomorrow, August 15, Happy Independence Day fellow Indians!

The Hindustan Times, published August 14, 2008
The vanity of being stupid
If you have the stupidest
idea or opinion on
anlmost anything, then
take heart, you have
company in the
wilderness of the
world wide web
Do you hate soup? Or think that dressing like a cat will get you everything? Or that Batman might be gay? If it's a yes to the last one, you are joining those who've questioned the sexuality of Batman's alter-ego – the billionnaire Bruce Wayne – as far back as 1954. Much before Christian Bale rasped some respectability into the Dark Knight and before the late Heath Ledger changed how the viewer/reader perceived The Joker. As for hating soup, there's a 10-second rap song by that name and a yet-to-start website that promises to be up soon. Then there's the TypePad blog, Lux Lotu that talks how dressing like a cat might be the best way for you to get whatever you want. Point being, whatever it is you dig, dish, hate or sublimate, there's a blog or website that caters to it. No matter how bizarre, there's someone out there who's doing it and someone else blogging about it.
The blogosphere is a good way to validate yourself, to know that no matter how silly a thought, you have company in the world wide web. If nothing else, finding others with your interests or even different ones from yours can lead to good laughs. Like finding that there is an entire blog dedicated to icing mistakes on cakes. While Russia and Georgia tank each other out in a real-life simulation (oxymoron, eh?) of Empire Earth III, there are cakes being baked and decorated the world over and those who are botching it up too.
When real life goes horribly wrong, you read about it and when professional cakes go horribly wrong, you blog about it. Or at least so does Cake Wrecks that comes up daily with pictures of professional cakes that have something horrible, hilariously wrong with them. Like a cake with naked babies riding carrots (why indeed?) or a cake that says 'Happy November & December Birthday's – abbreviate Nov & Dec if you have to'. As the blogger says on Cake Wrecks, "sometimes stupidity takes so much effort." Look at the history of war for instance (globally please, not just the USA).
Sometimes life is just worth a laugh, before the bombs get us all. As Jenn Thorson says on the header of her blog, Of Cabbages and Kings, "Life's funny. Embrace the nonsense." As part of her embracing nature, Jen blogs on topics as varied as summer jobs, to Ouija boards and how every other blog on earth has some sort of voting/rating system on it. Oh, and every post of hers is followed by a 'vote for this post at Humor blogs'. Life's funny, bloggers funnier still.


chandni said...

and u have an award!!! collect it rom my blog please :)

flygye12 said...

i read ur column every sunday (that is b4 i home for holidays) dint know where ur blog was :) found u at Chandani's...will blogroll u now :)

gr8 post btw

maxine said...

Wasnt sure what to comment other than a Happy Independence day and after reading some 4 times trying to figure out what has changed other than the "bwahaha"and yet confused.If it doesnt sound blunt,each time I read,the words felt..peaceful.

Anonymous said...

a great article....u were always a great writer....winning awards right from god knows how long back...keep it up

DIrty D0ggy said...

>Her brother had chosen to join the war in Iraq and her family was distraught.

Karma is a bitch. Ain't she?