Thursday, December 31, 2015

Chp 593. Home in Mizoram 2015


So here’s my last blog update for the year 2015.

Landed in Mizoram 11 days ago, home sweet home. What made that even sweeter was my dear friend OP and girlfriend DP picking me up from the airport. :)


As I mentioned in my previous post, this is my first visit back to Mizoram since Prohibition had been lifted. So I was excited to know how things have changed, now that alcohol is finally legal in Mizoram. And yes, I have indeed seen a lot of changes compared to the times I used to come home earlier.

For example, alcohol is so much cheaper now! Earlier, a bootlegged rum could go up to 500, 600 even 1000 bucks in Mizoram. Now I can get an Old Monk full for just 190 bucks here! Back in Maharashtra, that same bottle costs 460. Yes, people are now actually buying alcohol from here to take back to Delhi, Mumbai etc when in fact it used to be the other way round during Prohibition days! :)


[Notice the "For Sale In Mizoram Only" stamp and price tag of Rs.190]

And yes, there’s now "authentic" alcohol everywhere. When Yahoo! India asked me to write an article about what it’s like to live in a state under Prohibition, one of my biggest concerns was the free flow of spurious alcohol. Bootleggers dilute smuggled booze and add dangerous chemicals to it in order to maximize their profit, and that shit is lethal (not that I’m saying alcohol ain't!) But now, everywhere I go, people drink good ol Government certified authentic booze :) Stuff that can still kill ya, but at a slightly longer, and tastier, pace.

On our way back from the airport, we passed the infamous RV locality, renowned for its bootleggers and "watering holes". And yes, the place wasn’t as crowded as it used to be! My friends later told me people still go there to drink "local" as there are still many who prefer that taste over bottled booze or beer, but that number had definitely dwindled since Prohibition was lifted.

But perhaps the biggest change I’ve noticed this time is that, there’s actually LESSER number of drunken brawls on the streets! Back when there was prohibition, you could find gangs of unruly guys fighting and punching each other on the streets everywhere, especially late in the night. Idiotic youth who don’t know how to hold their drink. And that is what made many people, including me, skeptical about lifting the Prohibition. But now, things are actually better! I’ve been going out every night since coming back to Mizoram, and in all that time, I saw just one street brawl. And the credit for all that definitely goes to our vigilant Police. There are police stationed everywhere in the city, keeping a close watch on the people. And drunkards who are causing a nuisance are tossed into the Police van with no hesitation.

Yup, thank you Mizoram Police for making our streets safe and clean. I salute you.

Of course there are also many other changes, changes that can only be noticed in the long run and not through a mere 11 days observation, like for instance, the increase in number of people dying from alcohol related ailments. Or the number of divorces and families torn apart due to excessive alcohol intake. Those are the side effects we must be prepared to face too.

Now I did mention I saw one street fight. I even recorded the entire incident on video. Around a group of 10-20 dudes fighting with another group of 10-20 drunken dudes. I was planning to upload that video on YouTube, but my friends asked me not to as it might give us Mizos a bad name, so I'm just gonna post a screenshot of that video here.


You can contact me on WhatsApp if you want to see the above video :D

Now what is really interesting about street fights in Mizoram is that, they are usually between two groups of guys. To start a fight between two drunken groups of friends is very easy, sometimes all it takes is one of the guys from one group asking the other group, "Wanna fight?" or "Min cho a mi?" and then all hell breaks loose. And when they fight, they just attack each other only. Unlike other places in India where I have seen drunken dudes running riot and thrashing everything in their path, these people do not attack public properties or harass passersby. They are just completely focused on beating the shit out of the opposing gang members :D

In the above video, you can actually see WOMEN in scooty driving calmly through the entangled mess of fists and kicks bashing faces and bodies in the middle of the street. And if by chance one of the drunk dudes happened to hit you or your vehicle by mistake, he will apologize to you and then get back to punching the face of the guy from the other group. See, little things like that really make me smile about our unique Mizo community :)

I have taken a lot of photos, especially of our community Christmas celebrations, dining out in Aizawl, street decorations across the city etc, but since I do not have a good picture editor on this old Laptop I’m using, I’ll update those next year, that is, from tomorrow onwards.

For now I just have two things to say. One is, this had been a fantastic good year for me. Our company got acquired and we relocated to a new city. There is a long pipeline of upcoming projects for next year, so while that is good in terms of career, it’s also gonna take a heavy toll on me next year.

The other thing is, this year, I lost of couple of close relatives and good friends. Relatives who had been nothing but nice to me, and friends I treated as my own brothers. I miss them all terribly, and may their souls eternally rest in peace. On the other hand, this year also saw many of my close friends, some of them long time bachelors, finally getting married. I wish them all a long lasting happily married life. Not to forget some of my friends who were blessed with a new baby this year. May your upcoming years be miserable :D Cheers to all of you, the lost souls, the paired souls, and the new souls.

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE. Enjoy tonight, but party safe :)

Cheers!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Chp 592. Acid Trip


So this will be my last blog update from Pune, as tomorrow I'll be on my way to Mizoram for my Christmas and New Year vacation!!! Woohoooo! :)

And I love the timing of this post, as this is my 50th blog update of the year, hence staying true to my promise of blogging at least 50 times a year. I may be physically lazy, but at least I know I got the writing department covered :D :P

Now this is going to be the first time I'm gonna travel back to Mizoram AFTER Prohibition had been lifted! So yeah, I'm curious and at the same time excited to know how life is like in Mizoram, now that alcohol is finally legal. I'm already experiencing the change now itself, as this time, none of my friends or relatives called me up and asked me to bring home a bottle or two for them. *phewww* :D :P

This trip is definitely going to be light on the luggage :)

Speaking of trips, here is a short comic strip I made, entitled "The Acid Trip".

Hope you like it :D :P



:)






Yeah, Mizos will get the context on this corny joke :)

"Acid" is quite popular in our community, especially among kids. It is not that hallucinogenic recreational drug - The "acid" we get at home is freely available everywhere. It is sold in tiny packets and even comes in different flavours, mixed with different spices and chillis. We lick them slowly or mix them with water, or eat them with lime etc and it tastes so amazing. 

It's kinda like that moment during your school's Chemistry Lab exam where you forgot what test must be conducted on the given sample and so in order to avoid losing marks, you took the extreme step of tasting the chemical compound with the tip of your tongue to find out if it's an Acid or Base. Ok I swear I never used to do that *whistles past by innocently*

Till now, I don't think I have met any other community or people from other places who likes "drinking acid"... Thinking about it, isn't it supposed to be unhealthy maybe? Yet we love it. Of course being acidic is just the property of having a pH value less than 7. Remember the "Litmus test" back in school? The sour lime we eat or drink, the roadside nimbu paani stall, "hatkora" juice, vinegar, coffee, wine made from sour grapes, carbonated drinks like pepsi coke, all dairy products, the "soda" that we add to our "Mizo bai" etc are all acidic in nature.

Maybe this is one of the things I'll do in my upcoming trip back home - Talk to my cousins and friends who are in the medical field and find out what exactly are the ingredients in those "acid packets" we get in the market, how is it manufactured, and what are their effects on the human body.

Mizohican on an acid mission. :P

So until then, a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all in advance in case I can't update my blog from home. Cheers everyone! :)



Thursday, December 17, 2015

Chp 591. Split-screen dream comes true


For the past couple of years, as a football Premier League fan, perhaps one of the most exciting times during the entire season is that LAST match of the season when there is still no clear cut winner. Of course this doesn't happen very often, but when it does happen, trust me, it is one of the best adrenalin rushes of the season!

For example, how many of you still remember the 2011-2012 season end? :D I'm sure Manchester United fans will never forget that moment :) As the last round of the season started, ManUtd and ManCity were tied with the same points at the top of the table. While ManUtd was winning their last match against Sunderland 1-0, ManCity was trailing 2-1 against QPR at Full Time! Though Arsenal too won their last match against West Brom that night, we were coming in third anyway, so my sms and WhatsApp messages were flooded with abuses and taunts from ManUtd fans flaunting their "newly achieved" title.

"We're always better than you Arse Anal!!!!"

"Haha pathetic Arsenal, we are the champions of this season!!!"

"Manchester United hi Pathian team a ni, Archhenal ho chu meidil ah in tla vek dawn".

"Beckham a pet goal mawi zia kha in lo hmu em?"

But then suddenly, in that very short remaining Extra Time, while my ManUtd friends were celebrating and downing shots like there's no tomorrow, ManCity went on to score twice to win their match! And so, with a higher "Goal Difference", ManCity clinched the title away from ManUtd in the very last minute!

I replied to all my friends who spammed me that night, trying to educate some of them that Beckham no longer plays for ManUtd, but they had already switched their phones off or blocked me by then. Dayymmm...

Anyway, what I want to talk about in this post is not about football fandom or rivalry, but the way we watched those matches. Since all the matches were taking place at the same time, we had to keep switching between different channels, or wait for the commentator to mention a goal being scored in the other matches. It was then that I wished I had multiple TVs or at least be in a Sports Bar with multiple screens...

But now, I have finally achieved one of my greatest wishes! To be able to watch multiple matches in one screen. Two weeks ago, Arsenal vs Sunderland, ManUtd vs WHU, Spurs vs WBA and Liverpool vs Swansea were taking place at the same time. And so, with my newly acquired broadband connection at home connected to my 32" TV that I'm using as a monitor, I was able to screen all four live matches at the same time!

Oh mannn what an experience indeed!



And as a reclusive and introvert bachelor living alone, I find this setup to be the most perfect and coziest way to spend a Saturday night. Great streaming speed on all four screens, along with great sound on my 5.1 surround sound home-theatre setup, and a glass of Rum+Coke just to set the mood right.


Of course I could use only one sound source and mute the other three because otherwise it would sound like I was watching a match with an Arabic running commentary :D



Not only was this a great experience, but the icing on the cake was the fact that Arsenal won while all the others lost or drew. We climbed up from 4th to 2nd that night :)


Eventually, they removed the ManUtd match and showed Arsenal match instead towards the end :D I ended up watching the same Arsenal match on two different stream channels. Oh man oh man :)


I decided to write about this post because watching an Arsenal match had indeed been a great experience this way. But unfortunately I won't be watching any more matches like this for the rest of this year as I am going home this weekend to home sweet home Mizoram.

Over there, first of all, the internet speed is not good enough to watch a live-streaming match. Secondly, I will be relying on whatever TV channels the service providers will be giving me. Thirdly, our next match against ManCity takes place this coming Tuesday at 1:30 in the morning. Now that may not be too late here in Pune, but in Mizoram that is an unGodly hour!

So yeah, hoping Arsenal can move to first position by the end of this year, and in case the last round of this current season is indecisive again, this is definitely the way I'm going to watch the matches!

So yeah, cheers everyone. :)


Ps. I mentioned I'm a Premier League fan not because I dislike other leagues. Of course La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga etc are exciting as well, but as an Indian viewer, Premier League matches are broadcasted here in India at the perfect time - usually around 8 in the evening, whereas to follow the other leagues, most of their matches take place beyond midnight IST.





Saturday, December 12, 2015

Chp 590. Early Saturday morning photo-shoot


After working from 9 AM to 10 PM every weekday, Saturday has become such a coveted day of rest and relaxation. The only time one can sleep as long as one desires - going to sleep late, getting up late completely relaxed, and yet no work to go to… oh how wonderful weekends are. Except of course, if you have other passions.

Some people spend the weekends waking up early to go hiking or cycling. A very dear blog friend of mine Chaitanya Vikas is a photographer, and that's how he spends his weekends – waking up early for a photo-shoot session.

Chaitanya had been visiting my blog since I ever started blogging a decade ago. You can actually see his comments on my old blog posts going back to 2004. Even though we got to know each other well through our respective blogs, the funny thing is, we finally got to meet face to face only just last month! And that was when he told me about his weekend (or holiday) ritual.

He, along with his colleagues Shirley and Umang, had started their "Stop Look Like" facebook page where they showcase their projects. All three of them are working at Veritas Information Management (which recently separated from Symantec) and even though professionally they are techies and tech writers, photography is their hobby. 

And so once they managed to find a volunteer as a model, they wake up early on Saturdays (or other holidays) for the photo-shoot session. Since this is a joint initiative, nobody gets paid. But in return, both the models and the photographers get to improve their portfolio for free. In fact Chaitanya and Umang occasionally land a couple of gigs at various functions and events when they're not at work. What better ways to get side income than doing something you're truly passionate about? :)

I told him to call me the next time he conducts such a photo op again. I was curious to know how people could waste such a perfect and blissful Saturday morning sleep to do something else that was not even related to their actual job. :D

Maybe I spoke too soon :P This early morning, what I thought was a giant bee buzzing and chasing me in my nightmare, was actually the sound of my phone vibrating. Chaitanya called me up at 6 freaking AM today to tell me they were on their way for a photo-shoot session.

We spoke briefly, as a part of me was still dreaming. Much as I wanted to go back to sleep, the inquisitive side of me beckoned me to get up, brush and get ready. There were also four miss calls and a message from Chaitanya at 1 in the morning telling me about the last minute confirmation of their photo-shoot session today. But by then I had already passed out slept :)

And so I quickly got ready and the guys were there waiting for me below my apartment.



Damn, I've been living in Pune for almost a year now, and I have never seen the road outside my apartment like that at 6 in the morning :D

The venue for today's location was at Pune Nagar Road. Usually they do it at Aga Khan bridge here in KP, but today they wanted to capture the luminescent brightness of the first rays of sunlight traversing between the tree branches as it penetrates the model's radiant pupil, or something like that. There were a lot of things they explained that didn't make sense to me :D :P

The jogger's path at Pune Nagar Road was quite deserted…





Shirley surveying the scene…



Shirley and Akanksha getting ready



The crew setting up the place…





One of the tasks of setting up the scene includes chasing away stray dogs who kept coming next to Akanksha. Who can blame the dogs, they are just as curious as I was :)



As they started shooting, there was the problem of people who kept coming in the way, like this one for instance…







…or this one :)







After all, it is a public place and everybody had the same rights to be there as well. Fortunately for us, all those people taking a morning walk were understanding and didn't mind us either. Nobody complained about us, and most of them, especially the old uncles, sweetly smiled at us.







Umang was giving out all sorts of instructions to Akanksha, telling her where to look, what to look, how to look, why to look etc.

















I'm telling you, they are so passionate, and it was wonderful watching them deeply engrossed at work :)



Here is a more close-up view of the model in action





And there is such a HUGE difference between my OPO phone cam and the ones they're using. For example, here is me taking a pic of Shirley taking a pic of us…



And here is how we look from the other end!



Once Umang was finally satisfied with his photo session, it was Chaitanya's turn. I didn't take much photos of him clicking as I was also helping with the reflector screen…







Chaitanya explained to me the importance of the reflector screen, about how the silver screen reflects the gamma rays of sunlight onto the atomic particle of the HDR lens, or something like that, and I just zoned out :P 

Seriously, I don't know anything about photography, even though I love taking pics of my food using my phone cam :P Its kinda like how I'm a big fan of music, but many a times, my closest friends and relatives have accused of being tone deaf :D

For example, after the session, I asked Chaitanya for some of the photos they took with their cameras for my blog update. And he was like, "Sure, are you going to post the BTS photos as well?" and I was like, "Definitely". And then I rushed home to google what the hell are BTS photos, assuming it is some file format they're using. I know I can open JPGs normally, and I can open TIFF files with Photoshop. But BTS format? How to open BTS format? I googled and googled but found no solution so I finally messaged him…

"Hey, what do you mean by BTS photos?"

He replied, "Behind The Scene" photos.

*facepalm* :D

So here are some more photos from their cameras. The final product, as in the ones they're gonna use on their FB page is not in this list yet.












Soon it was 7:30 and the sun was up properly…



Chaitanya, Umang, Sunny and I took one last selfie together



They dropped me at my place again, and it was not even 8 AM. Most of my friends would still be sound asleep :) But was it worth it? Most definitely. It was a new experience for me, and a totally fun one too. But I don't think it is something I would want to do every Saturday :) It feels great to know people like Chaitanya and his friends who have so much passion to do this on a holiday, especially considering the fact that all this is done voluntarily!

So please do support my friends in their endeavor and "like" their Facebook page. This is also a great opportunity for those who may want to make a portfolio or looking for photographers to cover their functions here in Pune. 

Cheers!