The Ringside View

My attempts at writing have always been stacked up in old diaries and scraps of yellowing paper.Time,neglect and phylum insecta however, always ensured that the gibberish i scrawled, never would see the prying gaze of an alien eye.Years later, i still scribble once in a while - this time in word documents stored in some obscure folder somewhere in the innards of my C drive.I am unearthing some of them and opening them up for the interested.To get what i call - The Ringside view.

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Location: Bangalore, Karnataka, India

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Game

I came home from office the other day, to see a colorful pamphlet jutting out of my letterbox, promising cheap games of snooker 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Considering you wouldn’t get anything in Norwich (not including pints of beer and other things at Sainsbury’s) after four in the evening, this sure did come as a surprise of sorts. Here was this snooker parlor tucked away in some place called Baker Street working almost like a Las Vegas casino. And its cheap they proclaim in Arial font 24. At least, no more dropping endless 50p coins into the slot machine like a devout soul at the temple drop box.

So the following Friday, me and a bloke of mine decided we’ll go and get a game after office after all. With the long hours of Saturday and Sunday stretching before us like a never ending oasis, we knew we had hours at hand.

“Have you got the map with you”, I asked him as I jumped off the Park & Ride.

“Yup, in my head”, he quipped smartly, denouncing those who fired print outs when all they needed to do was use their bloody brains.

“Very true”, I replied. “Think of all the trees. But we should have got a darn print out all the same”.


“It’s two roundabouts after Chapelfield”, he told me. But then the funny thing with Google maps is, despite all the distance and all that, it still deceives you into thinking that it’s close enough for comfort. For example, if you go in and type ‘New York to Paris’, it very earnestly talks about a 3000 odd mile swim across the Atlantic. Take that.

But he had a sharp sense of direction and despite our wide ranging topics of discussion, he spotted roundabout one and quite a while later the sought after roundabout two. “At this roundabout, take diversion to the right”, he continued, like an expensive talking version of Google maps that you can take along for a game of snooker, provided its available in the colour of your choice at the nearest Argos delivery centre.

“Are you sure it’s this one”, probed the paranoid me. He pumped his fist, smiled and pointed at a small board reading Baker Street. I cursed my timing and decided to rest my sense of disorientation for good. It definitely was further off than we thought it would be. The roads looked desolate and the road stretched in either direction, forlorn and disinterested. We were looking to reach 85 Baker Street and soon found 49 progressing into 50 and higher numbers. Right direction alright. But one problem. What stood at these numbers were not houses, not shops but warehouses. Huge, ramshackle and neglected. And the deeper we ventured it only looked worse.

“This looks like a shady place”, he told me. “You reckon we go back”. Considering the increasing number of Martin Scorcese movies I’ve been watching of late, I was expecting Joe Pesci and a few mean looking goons to come out of the thicket any moment and beat us to bloody pulp. But we ventured, all the same in search of the green board. Man, we had balls.


If we had not seen the almost empty parking lot at the last corner, we would have turned back and left for good. A harmless game of snooker is not worth all this adventure I must admit. But it read Clarke’s and since we had braved the journey, we thought we may as well check it out. We went around the asbestos sheeted club house and through a grilled prison like turn table. A spectacled, ‘I’ve never ever smiled’ kinda man in a bow tie peered at us like we had just entered no man’s land.

It was dark like all snooker parlors are. It was smoky like all snooker parlors are meant to be. The smell of fresh brewed lager lingered. We looked around; 20 odd tables lay spread eagled with red balls in a triangle waiting to be dispersed. But hardly a soul.

“Hello mate”, I gestured. “Can we take one of the tables”, I enquired.

“Members only”, he replied matter of factly. “You become a member and then you play”.

“Oh ok then. We’d just heard about the place. Just thought we’ll check it out. How goes it then?” And as he walked us through the terms, we were already shuffling to leave. “Thanks then mate. We’ll be back in a while”, we smiled. He didn’t. As I stepped out of the turn table, I looked back to see if there was a camera rolling somewhere. And if Scorcese was beaming behind it screaming “Good shot ya fuckin bastards”.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Tarantino and me

One of my friends recently asked me why my blog is like Quentin Tarantino’s movies. Whizzing across time and space like nobody’s business. From tropical sun burnt Southern India to wet and windy East Anglia even before you knew it. And of course with no consideration to chronology whatsoever. Now I wonder if he meant it as a compliment but I’ll take it as one anyways. And I am also planning to base my next write up with me, twenty years hence as a lumberjack in the upper American Midwest. Now will not Tarantino be proud.


And by the way, the walking tales were inspired after reading ‘A walk in the woods’ by Bill Bryson. Good read. My initial intention was to write a book review but then I ended up recounting my own tales.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

More Walking Tales

A queer mix of habit and self reliance propelled me to greater distances on foot in the years to come. And when I joined college for my engineering degree, I finally found a few guys who had the same classification of distances as I had – ‘walkable’; ‘not walkable’.

I remember it was somewhere around Jan-Feb and we had hit Ootacamund to seek solace from the rut of daily life and electronic circuits (ok probably you can ignore the circuits bit. I was just getting a little carried away I presume). Hopping off the rickety red and yellow bus, I stroked its metallic sides like a mahout strokes his elephant and quipped ‘He’s done well eh? Never thought he’ll survive all those frekin’ hair pin curves’. No one replied. They all stood mute, soaking in the splendor of Shangri-la.

Undulating green hills stretched as far as I could see. I stood there like I was on stage enveloped in a smoky haze that was meant to mimic a fairyland scene. The air was crisp, clean, clear; with enough oxygen in it to make you go hyper. Meadows, grassy green and beckoning with grazing cows like in an ad for a Swiss diary product. ‘Holy cow! Isn’t it a sight to behold’, someone smart alec mumbled. It was.

Two bucks and a glass of tea from the road side vendor. We stood exhaling hot air like Clint Eastwood without a cigar, waiting for KB to pay up, use his PR and get directions. “It’s far, he says”, KB proclaimed. “This way though it is. Whatdya guys reckon?”

“I think it’s walkable”, Papps replied without thinking. Like an oracle who knew the answer before hand. But that was the answer we were waiting for. We picked up our back packs and walked east. In the direction of the rising sun.

“He also laughed hysterically when I mentioned we wanted to walk up”, KB continued with a smirk. Now that’s interesting. Very interesting.


Now when the road is acutely angled at close to a 30 and you are lugging a bag heavy with what now seems unnecessities, walking is not all that a joy. But the enthralling scenery kept us going in the direction which the tea seller pointed. Somewhere along the way, we suddenly felt the need to do a direction check; Papps pounced on an innocent passer by heading the opposite way with a ‘He’ll know it’ confidence. The poor man raised his eyebrows in disbelief and kept suggesting the bus station that we left 15 minutes behind us for every question that we asked. “That fucker was a let down”, Papps grimaced. But the signs were definitely not ominous. A root cause analysis was imminent. There could be two potential reasons for his bizarre reaction we concluded. One. Where we were headed is ‘not walkable’. Or two, Papps’ pot-pouri vernacular exhibition (with his limited vocabulary of 100 words both languages included) unsettled the poor man. Considering the water feud between the two neighboring states (the one we came from and the one we were in), blabbering the wrong language could well be the difference between a black eye and none. After much deliberation and to the angst of one, we unanimously decided it was the language and that we were lucky and Papps would never ask directions again.

A mile or so later, when rationality and fatigue got the better of us, we found two security guards warming themselves in front of the glowing embers of what must have been a bright and burning bon fire. We thrust our arms out like fire flies to the flame and the men made room with generous smiles. A few pleasantries later we asked the inevitable question and waited to measure the ‘are you crazy’ index in their reaction. “It’s a bit far off”, one of them replied. “There’s a bus stop round that corner. You’re bound to get one in another half an hour”. “We’d like to walk”, I intercepted gingerly. “How long do you think it’s gonna take us”.

“eh…. 25 minutes”, the faster of the two replied, as though it was a pre calculated answer to a math problem. ‘Minutes?’, I confirmed, just in case. Leaving the guards to their cozy corner, we labored ahead in what seemed the road to neverland. Conversations thinned, shoulders drooped. And the ascent mockingly turned steeper and more spirit crushing by the minute.

But the odd abuse not withstanding we trudged on like rudderless ships. And like all long journeys which end in broad smiles and confetti, we had our much awaited moment of bliss. Papps sighed. Suri sweared. CG raised his long arms in accomplishment. Djang screamed. I read aloud the writing on the big brown board: Love dale, 0 km. Many of us swore that day not to walk great distances anymore. But after breakfast when we got out of our hotel rooms, someone looked into a pamphlet the receptionist had thrust upon us and quipped: “Botanical Gardens: 5 km. I think it’s walkable’.

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