Tuesday, January 23, 2007

excerpts from "A Man without a Country" - II

I'm still working on some older blog entries that I was supposed to finish. So in the meanwhile, it's back to excerpts from "A Man without a Country". By the end of this excerpt series, you'll probably have read the whole book, or atleast the best parts!!

I am, of course, notoriously hooked on cigarettes. I keep hoping the things will kill me. A fire at one end and a fool at the other.

And my car back then was powered, as are almost all means of transportation and other machinery today, and electric power plants and furnaces, by the most abused, addictive, and destructive drugs of all : fossil fuels. . . When you got here, even when I got here, the industrialized world was hopelessly hooked on fossil fuels, and very soon now there won't be any left. Cold turkey. . . Can I tell you the truth? I mean this isn't the TV news is it? Here's what I think the truth is: We are all addicts of fossil fuels in a state of denial. And like so many addicts about to face a cold turkey, our leaders are now committing violent crimes to get what little is left of what we're hooked on.

Our close cousins the gorillas and orangs and chimps and gibbon apes have gotten along just fine all this time while eating raw vegetable matter, whereas we not only prepare hot meals but have now all but destroyed this once salubrious planet as a life-support system in fewer than two hundred years, mainly by making thermodyanimic whoopee with fossil fuels. The Englishman Michael Faraday built the first electric generator only a hundred and seventy-two years ago (this was written in 2005). The German Karl Benz built the first automobile powered by an internal combustion engine only a hundred and nineteen years ago. The first oil well in the USA, now a dry hole, was drilled in Titusville, Pennsylvania, by Edwin L. Drake only a hundred and forty-five years ago. The American Wright brothers, of course, built and flew the first airplane only a hundred and one years ago. It was powered by gasoline. . . You want to talk about irrestible whoopee? A booby trap. Fossil fuels, so easily set alight! Yes, and we are presently touching off nearly the very last whiffs and drops and chunks of them. All lights are about to go out. No more electricity. All forms of transportation are about to stop, and the planet Earth will soon have a crust of skulls and bones and dead machinery. And nobody can do a thing about it. It's too late in the game. Don't spoil the party, but here the truth: We have squandered our planet's resources, including air and water, as though there were no tomorrow, so now there isn't going to be one.

I know what women want: a whole lot of people to talk to. What do they want to talk about? They want to talk about everything. What do men want? They want a lot of pals, and they wish people wouldn't get so mad at them. Why are so many people getting divorced today? It's because most of us don't have extended families anymore. It used to be that when a man and a woman got married, the bride got a lot more people to talk to about everything. The groom got a lot more pals to tell dumb jokes to. But most of us, if we get married nowadays, are just one more person for the other person. The groom gets one more pal, but it's a woman. The woman gets one more person to talk to about everything, but it's a man. When a couple has an argument nowadays, they may think it's about money or power or sex or how to raise the kids or whatever. What they're really saying to each other, though without realizing it, is this: "You are not enough people!" A husband, a wife and some kids is not a family. It's a terribly vulnerable survival unit. . . I sure wish I could wave a wand, and give every one of you an extended family. Now, you take George and Laura Bush, who imagine themselves as a brave, clean-cut little couple. They are surrounded by an enormous extended family, what we should all have - I mean judges, senators, newspaper editors, lawyers and bankers. They are not alone. That they are members of an extended family is one reason they are so comfortable. And I would really, over the long run, hope America would find some way to provide all of our citizens with extended families - a large group of people they could call on for help.

© Kurt Vonnegut


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Present > Past

Sachin Tendulkar's go-slow in the 2nd innings of the 3rd test spoke more of his stark present than his illustrious past. Numerous analysts blamed him for the loss, none defended his approach to batting. We all know how his performances infect the team. On that particular day, the team caught hold of his virus. I did not watch the inning, but I only had to picture it in my mind. Watching Tendulkar 'accumulate' runs in the past few seasons is a common, albeit frustrating, sight. A batsman who can't stretch enough to touch the pinnacle of his capabilities appears confused, both as batsman and team player, and half-hearted in his efforts. International sportsmen often encounter mid-career crises, when the fight between phasing out as a has-been and pushing on for greatness reaches its climax. But for Tendulkar to go through such a phase near the end of his career spells more cause for concern than is visible on the surface.

Tendulkar will be 34 in April, his 18th year in international cricket. Statistically, he has achieved all batting greatness there is. But the real story doesn't match that greatness, it speaks of something unaccomplished, incomplete. He must decide what he wants to do with the rest of his career, how he wants to sign off. And needs to do it now.

There seems little reason to Tendulkar playing the role of the anchor batsman. As has been suggested by analysts and cricket enthusiasts over and over again, he must play his natural game, unless it means 'accumulating' runs. Greg Chappell and Rahul Dravid seem to posses enough cricket brain and guts to let such a suggestion pass; they might even have offered the role to Tendulkar. There are others in the team who can fill in for that role. He needs to let go of his expectations, let go of his past achievements, let go of himself. Go out on that pitch and just bat!

There is work to be done, Mr. Tendulkar. A career to be replenished.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The name is Pratik

I don't know why I'm doing this. I have to be crazy, which funnily enough I am, and very stupid, which again I could be. All those who know me are aware that I hate being called any name that is not Pratik (yes, this includes Jack, don't ask why, sometimes, it really ticks me off) And yet here I am, about to give you a pretty comprehensive list of all the names I've been called. Relax, don't get excited. This definitely doesn't mean you can pick out a name from the list and use one of them on me next time. Of course, this doesn't mean you start calling me Pratik, just because it annoys me sometimes (you'd probably laugh your ass off calling me Pratik, and I'll laugh my ass off in return) Stick to the old name. Just don't give me any more nicknames!! .... Bas ho gaya yaar ab ... :)

I have a lot of nicknames, no exaggeration. My (exaggerated) theory is that if I had my back to all the people I know and they called out my name, I could recognize who it was just by the name they use to call me (you can look at it two ways : either I don't know enough people or I have too many nicknames).

I know, I know - you all are probably wondering why is this guy so expasperated over his nicknames and will evetually quote Shakespeare : "What's in a name?" (some of you probably don't even know that it's Shakespeare, shame on you guys!!) It's a pain living a life of multiple nicknames. It's come to a point where nobody knows who Pratik is. Take the following phone conversation for example :

Caller : Hello.
Pratik : Hello.
Caller : Who is this?
Pratik : Pratik.
Caller : Kaun?
Pratik : Pratik!!
Caller : Pratik? .... Kaun Pratik?
Pratik : ........... Abbe, Jack bol raha hoon!!!
Caller : Toh aisa bol naa!

Precursory warning : Do not apply reason to any of the following nicknames. Just take it on face value, or word value rather.
  • Pratik (or simply Patel) - this is the best one!
  • Patrick - pretty obvious why
  • Jack (the most popular one, variations : Jackkkkkk - ek dum intensity ke saath, Jackie, Whacko Jacko) - "Why Jack?" If I had a dollar for every instance I've had to (reluctantly) answer that one. So here's the story : Once upon a time, a few desi Florida Tech freshmen became friends. As happens with a group of people who start hanging out with each other, they started having nicknames for each other. The first person to get a nickname was Manoj, a Tamil guy from Singapore. Now, Arjun derived a nickname for Manoj : Daaku; he probably thought Manoj looked like one (FYI, I didn't think he looked like one) Up until then, I was the only one who wasn't christened with a nickname. Now, Daaku didn't like the attention he was getting (that's what I think - but hey, I'm the one telling the story here, so that's the way it's going to be :D), so he had to divert it towards someone else. Enter yours truly. So on a sunny day with clear, blue skies, he calls me Jack in front of the whole gang. "Huh? What?" Now, Manoj saw a movie called Aa Ab Laut Chale and he was amazed by this one character. The character is a Gujju NYC cop. He is Jaikishan Patel by night and (lo and behold) Jack Patel by day. So I was named after a lame character in a pathetic Bollywood movie. I hate that movie!! You know what, nobody remembers who Daaku was, but Jack ....
  • McDD (or MDD) - amusing to the inventor because it rhymes with JackDD
  • Jake the Snake (or simply Jake, some people don't like it so they use Snake!!) - named after the famous WWF wrestler Jake the Snake Roberts
  • JackBuster (or just Buster, which is annoying to no limit) - derived from BlockBuster, the movie rental store (if 200 people wanted to watch 200 different movies, on their own, the same night, then I could probably open my own BlockBuster, I mean JackBuster)
  • Jackpa Tel (rhymes with AlcaTel - btw, you're 'supposed' to say it simultaneously : Jackpa (pause) Tel (pause) Alca (pause) Tel) - don't ask why because even I don't know
  • Jack Black Quack Quack (or just Quack Quack - One crazy idiot has left me voicemail messages that consisted of just two words : quack, quack. If this isn't ridiculous, then what is?) - again, do not ask
  • JP of TPI - Jack Patel of a certain industry. Let's just say a friend wanted to use my brand name (quite literally!!) for business purposes. I will say no more.
  • Black Jack - apparently, I'm black!! :)
  • PDD
  • KK Patel - named after the not-so-famous Kitchen King Masala, apparently I cook well
  • Hanuman Patel - devised when I had swollen lips due to a cricket pitch mishap. In times of such an injury, you treat the guy with an ice pack. What did I get treated with? An ice pack .... and yet another nickname!!
  • Put-put Patel
  • Pumping Patel - What was I doing at that point of time? Filling in air in my bike's deflated tyres. I probably reached such a stage wherein I didn't have to do anything to get a nickname, it just happened ... just like that.
  • Nanak Patel - I will not delve into this one, horrendously ridiculous!! (Saurabh, you bastard ... :D)
  • PJP (Pratik Jack Patel) - amusing to the inventor because it rhymes with BJP
So there you have it, stupidity, franchise outlets, animals and even religious figures!! You've heard of 'master of all trades'? Now you know who I am .....

I've probably missed some, for good reason of course. For e.g. I didn't reveal my first nickname, the nickname my parents gave me. None of you, except my sister, know that one (and you better keep it that way). I'm one nickname lesser. Phew!

P.S. This isn't official, but my New Year resolution is to update my blog more frequently, a lot more frequently since I have more free time on hand. If I live upto it, it's official, or else ...... you've been warned about how lazy I can be.