Friday, August 21, 2009

Sin City

Italy, AD 2079

‘Old man Ves seems to be grumbling an awful lot today,’ said Fabio. ‘He has too much to complain these days, as all the old geesers do,’ replied Franchesco. ‘I can’t really see what he's upset about though. We have food, water and a living. Sure, crime is on an all time high, but what do you expect? I mean, it IS the land of the mafia,’ he continued in a matter-of-fact way.

Meanwhile, in a shady alley, not too far away, ‘The boss wants an even bigger cut from the cocaine market, Al,’ complained Danielle. ‘I think that the boss is getting too big for his own shoes. Looks like someone is gonna have to do something about it, and soon,’ retorted Alberto. And continued, ‘Say, what is it with old man Ves? What is he groaning and rambling on so much today anyway? You, maybe think that he's gonna finally erupt?’‘No way man. Haven’t you heard? Barking dogs seldom bite. Old man Ves is one such dog. Nothing more, nothing less,’ dismissed Dani.

‘I see the city for what it is. I see its true face. Steeped in layers of filth and grime. Hidden behind drug lords and criminal gangs. Murder, rape and extortion rampant in the streets. Children being made into slaves and peddlers at ages in which they ought not to even know the existence of any vice,’ scowled old man Ves.

‘It wasn’t always like this though. It was once a beautiful town. The most beautiful in the world and at its pinnacle, I stood. People were people then, and not the beasts they are today. There were flowing rivers and clean streets. Fields stretched in all directions and people lived real lives, not the sorry excuse for a life that they claim to have now. They lived those days. Today, they rat for an existence. It’s pathetic to even watch,’ rued the oldie.

‘Something must be done. No one is willing to stand up and be counted. No one has a spine any more. People are just happy to scavenge a living and let the town rot. After all, all they want is to be. It pains me to see that the world has come to this. Where is the bright sunshine and where are the vast open fields? Where is the laughter and merriment?’

‘All that remains is a sorry excuse for a town that was once glorious. I have given them a long enough rope and they don’t seem to be heeding to my warnings. I did not want it to come down to this, but I am afraid that I must take it upon myself to end this …. this farce,’ mused old man Ves, almost apologetically.

Thus seething in anger, Mount Vesuvius erupted, spewing his rage far, high and wide. He exploded in a blaze of glory, with golden lava flowing over the sides of the mountain and rapidly engulfing the entire town, burying all the filth and dirt and leaving it cleansed of the grime and crime.

Exactly 2000 years after a young Vesuvius has unleashed his fury on the unsuspecting town of Pompeii, he did so again. He then cooled down.

The town was in peace. After a long, long time, it slept, enveloping each and every inhabitant in a mist of slumber.

Footnote: This, I actually wrote for a competition, for publication in a magazine. I don’t think that they are going to publish it, so I though why not I publish it myself JThe last line, “The town was in peace. After a long, long time, it slept, enveloping each and every inhabitant in a mist of slumber” was given and we had to make a story based on that. Well, as soon as I saw that line, I remembered a story that we had in class 4 or 5, in our English text book about the town of Pompeii and what happened when Mt.Vesuvius erupted on that fateful day in AD 79. This was inspired from that. Also, people who read this, told me that there was a certain lack of continuity in the flow. I agree, but then I was working with a word limit of 500 word ( which I ended up exceeding anyway J ). Also, I imagined the setting to be like the city in ‘Sin City’ or Gotham City in ‘Batman begins.’ Well, this footnote has run into a foot paragraph, I see, but I felt that it must be told …


Thursday, August 20, 2009

They dont make 'em like that no more

I read a while ago about this place called 'Indian Coffee House', an institution in Bengaluru that was going to down its shutters very soon. There were glowering tributes from greats of the city like Ram Guha and others about how it had been a hub for the social and political stalwarts of the city for decades. Being a coffee afficando, I distinctly remember being really gutted about not having visited such a place, savored it and most importantly,

tasted the coffee.


Imagine my surprise and delight then, when, walking down Church Street ( parallel to MG Road ), I saw this non descript medium sized hoarding that simply said 'Indian Coffee House.' I thought it almost too good to be true. I read the board again to see if I had been right in what I saw. I mean, could it be? It was too good to resist and naturally, I went in.


To say that the place was 'bland' would not be an understatement. The walls were painted in an uninspiring tone of blue, with white splashed about here and there. The benches were of a plain wooden variety with equally plain wooden chairs. Most young people would probably be put off by this. After all, what sort of a "coffee joint" is this anyway? Well, it’s exactly that. A "coffee joint" in its truest form. Not the fancy ones that boast of English

music and couches. Just a joint that serves coffee, and my God ! What coffee !


I naturally ordered coffee and the bearer ( dressed in white, with a red turban), placed before me this cup of coffee. I say "cup" very deliberately because it was just that. A plain ceramic cup, no fancy logos or shapes on it, and a saucer to go with it, housed the coffee.


Now comes the best part, THE COFFEE. It was quite simply some of the best South Indian filter coffee that I have tasted. Not too light, quite strong, with the right amount of sugar. Perfect. It has to be tasted to be appreciated fully.( I went three times in a day and a half !)


The place also has other eats like French fries and scrambled eggs, just to name a couple. I tried the French fries. Not too good, I should say, but then, the accompanying cup of coffee more than made up for it.


To say that I fell in love with the place would be putting it mildly. I was positively floored.  A place that still has the old world charm in the midst of the modern and the urbane. I was really stunned by the kind of crowd that the place attracted. I could see old timers and youngsters in equal measures. It just goes to show that the place has still not lost its charm and that great coffee is, well ... great coffee.






Saturday, August 15, 2009

Let the games begin !!!

Another season is upon us and another thrill a minute ride is imminent. This season promises to be one of the most exciting yet, with money bags, Man City threatening to break the stranglehold of the "big 4". Here's my appraisal of the "new Big 5", so to speak:

Manchester United
Weakened in no small measure by the departures of the talismanic Cristiano Ronaldo, and the irrepressible Carlos Tevez, this season's squad looks to be thinner than any in the recent past. Although the arrivals of Antonio Valencia and Michael Owen have brought some respite, it remains to be seen as to how much of the void left by Ronaldo and Tevez will be filled. If he remains fit, there is no doubt that Owen will flourish and rightfully earn a recall into the England squad for the 2010 World Cup. With Ronaldo gone, the onus is definitely on Rooney now. He will, more often than not, this season be played in hes preferred central role and expect him to revel. Berbatov looks leaner, meaner and hungrier and has started the pre
season with renewed vigor, as if to prove a point. With Giggs and Scholes, not spring chickens any more, but still capable of putting in stellar performances, the rest of the squad must get their act together. The defence looks solid and the midfield coming together nicely. Hargreaves, when fit, will be like a new signing and he will be one of the most important players. Ben Foster looks nervy and Kuszczack looks just about passable. Van Der Sar looks to have one more season in him. Dont be surprised if Fergie signs Manuel Neuer,
from Schalke, in spite of his public backing for Foster. Valencia looks to be a solid buy and Nani seems to finally be coming good. The key to winning a fourth successive league title, is undoubtedly going to be the strength in depth of the team and how(and if) the "fringe" players come to the fore.

Yuri Zhirkov seems to be the only major signing for the Blues, but I believe that the most important signing they have made this season, is that of a certain Italian by the name of Carlo Ancelotti. He brings with him a winning mentality and also commands huge respect
from fans and players alike. Yet, there are bounf to be skeptics, especially after the same was said of Phil Scolari last season. The squad looks strong with the ever flourishing partnership of Drogba and Anelka up front. Being well covered in defence and midfield, it is only if either Anelka or Drogba get injured, that cracks might show in the Chelsea armor. They look a strong and solid and is Ancelotti can succeed where Scolari failed, and keep the team united, there is no doubt that they will be a force to reckon with and may even get their hands on that all elusive Champions league trophy.

As ever, a lot will depend on the fitness on Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard. If the both of them should stay fit all through the season, there is little doubt that Liverpool will be challenging for all the major trophies, come the end of the season. I believe that Xabi Alonso's absence will be felt deeply and more pressure will be on Mascherano. It remains to be seen as to how well Aquilani will do in the Premier League. The defence looks a little wobbly, though they have the best 'keeper in the league. Yet again, the bench strength is not too awe inspiring and will have to drastically step up if Liverpool are to win it all, or anything at all.

Adebayor and Toure have gone. Two massive players and although Vermalen has been brought in as cover in defence, it remains to be seen as to how well he adapts to the Premier League. Up front, the return to fitness of Eduardo has been a lifeline to Arsene Wenger
but again, if he were to get injured, they will be found wanting, with Bendtner not looking too menacing. Wenger has once again kept his faith in youth and its about time that his faith is rewarded. A lot is expected of the likes of Walcott, Vela and Gibbs this term and if they can live upto their billing, it promises to be an exciting season indeed for the Gunners.

Manchester "money" City
After an outlay of close to a 100 million pounds on new signings, Man City finally look to be entering the big league. Undoubtedly, they seem to have the squad to compete for all trophies. While the signing of Carlos Tevez has been a coup of sorts, one may question the need of 10 strikers in the squad. The defence looks to be sort of solid, with the arrival of Kolo Toure and the midfield looks to be shaping up well with a good blend of attack and defence. It will be interesting to see how well Mark Hughes controls the egos in the dressing room and whether he players his best eleven, or 11 of his best players. Also, it remains to be seen as to how his players, especially the "big" ones react to his squad rotation policy. If it goes according to plan, then Man City will, no doubt, be challenging for the major honors, come the end of the season.