Tuesday, August 2, 2011

36 Hours of Sin - Chapter 4

Statutory Warning : Persons with weak hearts are advised not to read this post, for the brazen and crude language used herein is known to cause certain cardiovascular disorders.

Chapter 4
How to win friends and influence them to sleep with you
03 hours 03 minutes to 03 hours 04 minutes

They say that it is very easy for a guy to get laid in Vegas. Of course, it is easy anywhere in the world these days. All you need is moohlah, a stash of dough that feels so choked inside your stinky wallet, being ceaselessly squashed by your fat bums, that it really wants to break loose and shower down generously like flakes of snow upon a body that has submitted itself to the will of someone else's lust-filled mind. Yes, that is easy. Money buys everything these days and the quality of what you get depends upon the quantity of what you give. WYPISWYG. What you pay is what you get. But how easy or difficult is it for a guy to walk up to a random chick, strike a conversation with her and two hours later have her moaning between the sheets? It ain't easy, I tell you...unless you are some goddam James Bond or something who just goes to a bar to sip a Martini and a Victoria's Secret supermodel pops out of nowhere and begins to drool all over you. But before going to Vegas, I used to think that such 'liasions' are just a fantasy created by horny Hollywood honchos to titillate the imaginations of the youth, who wade around in a fucken swimming pool of hormones. Standing in that lift with the stench of alcohol flaring up my nostrils, trying ever so best to dodge Mr. Drunk's gooey body, I see Mr. Smooth pull out a perfect chapter number 5 from the best seller - "How to win friends and influence them to sleep with you". Well, I ain't so sure about the last part. I mean, I'm not that perverted to follow them to their land of sensual fantasies, for Chrissake! But my logical little pea-brain believes that the third part would've happened for sure.

So, here's what chapter 5 of "How to Win friends and influence them to sleep with you", says :

Step Number 1 : Be Prepared

"Luck favors the prepared mind," Louis Pasteur (the dude who did something to ensure that you and I can drink our milk straight from the carton, without having the need to boil it or anything) once greatly remarked. It's quite a good thought I'd say. Because, even if luck ostracizes you and goes apartheid on your ass, you'll still have the balls to face whatever that comes your way, if you are well prepared. Preparedness is the key, be it to ace your exams or to make your bed belch out rhythmic squeaking noises as if a whole goddam bunch of monkeys from the Planet of the Apes were having an orgy or something. So, if you want to get laid, the first thing you need to do is to look good. No, no, you don't have to look like some goddam Brad Pitt or anything. (But it does help if you have the physique of Steve Rogers. Steve Rogers, after he began parading around in his Captain America tights, not before!) You just need to have the right clothes, the right hair-do, the right shoes and the right eau-de-cologne, sprinkled just enough to have it act like a pheromone but not as much to make you smell as if you were fucken marinated in it. No, I don't know what ought to be the 'right' clothes and accessories. Had I known that, I would've been horsing around with Hugh Hefner's bunnies right now, for Chrissake! Anyway, what I want to tell you is that Mr. Smooth looks well prepared.

Step 2 : The Conversation Starter

An Armani hugging your body and a Rolex shimmering on your wrist will get you nowhere, if you don't know how to talk. As such, starting a conversation with an unknown person is no cakewalk. But starting a conversation with a girl with the intent of doing you-know-what in the near future, is even more difficult. Conversation starters are an art and what should be the ideal conversation starter is nothing short of rocket science. I swear! Sometimes, even a simple 'Hello' and a smile flicked at an appropriate angle can do wonders. But if you smile a little more than what is required, you'll end up looking like a fucken drooling moron.
You shouldn't sound too dorky like fucken Dexter (I'm talking about that midget kid whose face is bigger than his body and not about the guy who goes around killing people for a living) or something, nor should you sound too sleazy like you were some impoverished pimp, willing to poke his dick into the first hole he finds. You should neither sound too cool and gentle like some chivalrous English nobleman of the 14th Century stabbing a lance through someone's ass to uphold your lady's dignity, nor should you sound obsessed and psycho like fucken Jack the Ripper or something.There are gazillions of bad conversation starters, but only a few good ones. It's like that 8 Queens Problem they taught you in Algorithms class, where you had to place 8 queens on the chessboard so that they couldn't attack each other - there are only a few correct solutions and a million incorrect ones. But when it comes to conversation starters, you can't even fucken backtrack for Chrissake!

The elevator chimes as it goes down floor-by-floor. The group of girls who stand huddled in the center are unusually silent. No more giggling and no more flirtatious laughter that one generally gets to hear from a gang of high-heeled revealingly-dressed young women. Mr. Smooth seizes the opportunity, looks at the girls, raises his eyebrows, flashes a hint of a smile and speaks out, "Hello ladies! Why is it so quiet in here?" He speaks in a fresh, jovial tone, one that is devoid of sarcasm or sleaziness. I leave out a chuckle, but it results in a snorting sound as the air rushes out from my nostrils like when you are performing one of Baba Ramdev's breathing exercises. The teddy-bear-type-cuddly-plump girl in the black dress crinkles up her nose like it was brimming with snot and says out aloud, "Quiet? You guys are the ones who are quiet." Her voice comes out louder and shriller than she intends to. She immediately looks away, while the other two girls in the group giggle away for no reason as if they inhaled a jar of fucken laughing gas or something.
I try to smile, pretending to be cool and all. But no one notices me except that fucken drunkard who slouches his gooey body ridden with sweat, beer and god-knows-what all over me.
"Us, quiet? No chance. We'd juss been talkinabout how pretty the girls are, in Vegas," He winks at us three as if he were our friend right from kindergarten or something. He continues in his candid tone, "Especially that quiet one there in the pink dress," he speaks in a tone that is decent, yet bordering on the uncharted territories of kinkiness.

And with this I come to Step 3.

Step 3 : Picking the silent one

When you are surrounded by a group of boisterous girls, there will always be a shy and silent one, who wears a dress that reaches halfway towards her knee (unlike her friends whose dresses end halfway through their butts) and looks ahead with a mask of intelligence that conceals her inherent inferiority complex. The silent one may not necessarily be silent per se, and that is why spotting her is the tough part. But once you pick out the silent one, going in for the kill is much easier.

Mr. Smooth uses the oldest and the stalest pickup line ever invented by man. But heck, it works like a fucken ferrari on a racetrack! The silent one in the pink dress giggles - a short nervous twitter of a giggle as opposed to a boisterous whory one. Mr. Smooth and Ms.Pinky make eye contact which lasts for second or two more than what a normal I-am-talking-to-you eye contact lasts for. The lift chimes and that irritating 'ping' sound rattles inside my brain, bouncing off its hollow walls. The door opens and Mr. Smooth edges his way forward and walks side-by-side with Ms. Pinky as they head out of the elevators.
"Where'ya girls headed to?" He looks at the four of them one at a time. His eyes settle on Ms. Pinky and he adds, "Can I buy you a drin-..."
His voice trails off as that pack of four girls and a guy, moves away from us. I see Mr. Smooth's right hand hover over Ms. Pinky's back. The hand gently caresses the silky exterior of the pink dress at a part which arches inward with the girl's spine. The girl's muscles relax and Mr. Smooth's hands park themselves with conviction. The girl's left hand moves towards his back. The pair slowly begin to inch away from the rest of the three girls, almost involuntarily, almost reflexively. And as that group merges into the bustling crowd at the lobby, I see Mr. Smooth's right hand creep downward, ever so slowly, his fingers twitch and tingle in excitement, while his mind thinks about chapter 3 of "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fuck Them".

Thursday, July 21, 2011

36 Hours of Sin - Chapter 3

(Disclaimer : This post may not be suitable for audiences below 18 ...blah blah blah. You know the routine by now . But there's one more disclaimer. Here it goes : The views expressed here are the author's own. And the descriptions here are depicted through the author's eccentric eyes and should therefore not be generalized. )

Chapter 3
Of Aunties and Hotties
01 hours to 03 hours

For about a gloriously boring hour, we stood outside the airport, amidst all that sweltering heat, waiting for our good old friend to turn up in his mean machine. We were tired. We were jaded. And all that initial hysteria (the time when I kept screaming out "I'm in Vegas! I'm in Vegas" again, again and again with that blissfully dumb grin on my face) had finally ended. The sun had begun to set and the sky slowly turned from azure blue to a pinkish vermillion and then to a dark shade of crimson. The air became a little cooler, and the lights began to come on. Vegas had just begun to wake up from its deep slumber.

"Dude, I hope he comes in that one," I pointed to a sleek black Mercedes that came gliding into the Passenger Pickup area. A gorgeous brunette was behind the wheel, and two equally gorgeous blondes got in.

"As long as he doesn't come in a rolling tin can!" A replied.

And so, we passed our time, ogling at those stunning creatures - their lustful curves, the smoothness of their exposed parts and the glitter of their bodies. Sexy. Posh. Tough to get hold of. I was talking about those cars, by the way.

So, we waited there staring at anything and everything that would amuse us. And by the time K arrived in his decent looking Mazda, most people around us would've probably concluded that we were drug dealers or something. (And in fact, we did meet some actual drug dealers about whom I'll talk about in the later chapters.) After slinging a few friendly curses (the kinda abuses guys throw around, when they are with their friends), we finally made our way to the MGM Grand.

A gigantic statue of a golden lion greeted us at the entrance of the hotel. It was a majestic beast about three stories tall, its massive paws resting on top of raised platform. It's fiery eyes peered into the horizon, looking sideways along the famed Las Vegas strip, while its golden mane glittered in the twilight.

After winding up through countless levels of the tiered parking lot, we finally managed to find a vacant spot. Once our car was safely parked and the GPS was carefully removed and placed in K's backpack (After that incident in Washington DC, we wouldn't dare to leave anything inside the car), we headed off towards the hotel lobby.

The lobby area was jam-packed with tourists. And even more were pouring in through the numerous entrances of the hotel. There were people of all ages, all races and all sexes, standing there clicking photographs of a smaller version of the Golden Lion that stood inside the lobby, or chattering away excitedly, or chugging along their wheeled suitcases towards the check-in desk.

I had always thought that Vegas was kinda like an 'adult' place. I would've believed that it was not suitable for kids, based on what I've seen on movies and stuff. But the place was teeming with kids, the ones who kept running along like crazy little headless chicken, with their guardians running after them, screaming their lungs out. But I guess, the hotel would have some playroom or something where they'd lock up all these little devils, so that the adults could go and have some dirty fun!
There were people from all over the world. No kidding. From whatever limited knowledge that I have, I could hear English, French, Spanish, Chinese, German, Hindi, Telegu, Tamil, Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali...and all the other Indian languages that you find written on that ten rupee note. There isn't a place in the world without Indians, I tell you! And when I think of that Agent Smith dialogue in the Matrix when he tells Morpheus that humans have multiplied like a virus and spread everywhere and all that, I think he was definitely referring to us, Indians. No doubt about it! And when I saw old aunties dressed in saris and riding in wheelchairs (yes, they were old enough to not be able to stand up), I realized that Vegas is not just about the sex, drugs, alcohol and gambling. Well, it is mostly that. But there are other things that people could do like errr....uhmmm....like errr...I dunno, there must be other things, I guess!

And of course there was the regular Vegas crowd...the kind we see in movies - groups of decent guys like us (decent in any place other than Vegas, that is); groups of decent girls (same applies); couples; groups of guys with tank tops, sideways tilted caps and tattoos running throughout their arms, (the ones that I call pachaas-paisa wannabes); groups of girls wearing glittering cocktail dresses (dresses that would've fit a 5 year old pretty well) and high-heeled stilettos, with which they could barely maintain their balance (I was half-expecting or perhaps wishing that at least one would fall down and I would be at the right place and the right time); single men wearing swanky coats and leather boots, standing in places with high 'chick-density' waiting for something remarkable to happen; and of course those ineffable drunkards. How charming they were!

So, we went to our hotel room, admired the sheer elegance of the place and freshened up for the young and sexy night that awaited us. But before we could hit the Vegas strip and go wild, we had to respond to our rumbling tummies. Sadly, we realized that relishing the natural (or perhaps artificial...in this day and age, you can't tell them apart), beauty is isn't enough to satisfy one's real appetite.

"Food. Where?" I asked, rubbing my tummy. A whole colony of goddamn rats were running riot inside. If I waited a little longer, I would've had to call the Pied Piper, for Godsakes!

"There's a Chipotle somewhere on the strip. We could get a quick and fulfilling bite there," K replied in his usual 'safe-as-a-house' tone.

"Chipotle? Coming all the way to Vegas and Chioptle?" A blurted out.

"Well, that's true. What about Indian food? There's this place called Gaylord. Okay...Don't look at me like that. I guess the food is good there," I replied.

"That's a little far off," K replied.

"So, what then?" I asked.

"This is a hotel for heaven's sake. It's supposed to have restaurants! We'll eat in one of those," A suggested.

"Dude. Vegetarian. Please be considerate," I patted my chest.

"I'm sure they'll have vegetarian stuff to eat."

"Yeah. I'm sure they'll have leaves for me to chew on," I muttered in an undertone as we left our room.

Two guys were standing in the lift when the doors opened on the 8th floor. One was a Caucasian and the other was an African-American. The Caucasian guy was swaying around in the corner, fighting to keep his balance. His eyes were hazy and his shirt was tucked-in at some places and hanging out loose at other places. He was gloriously drunk, beyond that 'i'm-so-happy-that-I-want-to-hug-random-strangers' phase where you generally see drunk people at. This guy was beyond that stage. This guy was about to pass out. This guy was frikkin' time bomb of puke. Let's call him Mr. Drunk.

The other guy, the tall and well-built African-American dude was dressed in the standard party attire - good shirt, a neat coat, dark-blue jeans and leather shoes. He smiled politely when we entered the lift. Let's call this guy - Mr. Smooth.

"How are you guys doing today?" Mr. Smooth asked.

"Good," A replied.
"Excellent," K replied.
"Pretty okay, I guess," I replied.

"Whendja guys come here?" he asked.

"A few hours back. How about you?"

"Partying since last night."

Just then, the lift stopped at the 6th floor. A loud and excited chatter of girlish voices could be heard on the other side. And the doors opened to a group of four good looking and well dressed girls standing outside. We suddenly stopped talking and couldn't help staring those damsels in front of us. Simultaneously, the girls who were chattering away stopped abruptly. They hesitated for a moment to enter the lift, partly because it was small and already five of us were in there, partly because Mr. Drunk was tottering around everywhere and partly because we were staring at them like goofy testosterone-driven maniacs.

There was an uncomfortable moment when everyone was passing glances at everybody else. But Mr. Smooth broke the ice, "Why dontcha girls come inside? There's plenny of room in here." He winked at them. The three of us backed to the walls of the lift to allow the four of them to squeeze in. Mr. Drunk continued to sway and totter. By an unspoken agreement we had reserved one entire corner for him to carry out his shenanigans. But Mr. Smooth stood where he was - right in the center of the lift. So, the four of them had to distribute themselves to fit inside. And as the doors closed, Mr. Smooth found himself in a very good position - two ladies to his left and two ladies to his right.

And in those brief few seconds, I would finally come to realize as to what one needs to do, to get laid with a total stranger. No, nothing kinky happened inside the lift. Control your imagination, for Godsakes!
But I'm sure loads of kinky stuff would've happened afterwards....

Saturday, July 16, 2011

36 Hours of Sin - Chapter 2

Disclaimer : This post may not be suitable for audiences below 18 without parental guidance.

Chapter 2
Did we just land into a casino?
oo hours to 01 hours

They say that Vegas is different, Vegas is unique, and there is no city in the entire length and breadth of this country that can even remotely resemble Vegas. And I thought,
'How different can it be? I mean it's just a city with casinos, in the middle of a desert in Nevada, whose lights you can see from outer space...how different can it be?'
'How different can it be? It's just a city where people within a blink of an eye, get bankrupt, get wasted or even get married to strippers...how different can-

I stopped this chain of thought partly because it began to defeat my original logic and partly because I somehow managed to walk into a casino, the moment I boarded off the plane! Yes, you read that right - we landed right into a casino!

With my heavy bag weighing down on my shoulders, and my back aching with the tiredness of air travel, I found myself standing on a plush carpeted floor in the midst of hundreds of whizzing and glittering slot machines. Slot machines were everywhere! They were there standing beside check-in desks, they were near water fountains, they were in front of luggage carousels, they were even placed outside restrooms! Heck! The entire airport was infested with these species, these merciless sirens of the modern world that tricked many a greedy traveler with the ruse of making a quick buck or hitting an entire jackpot. It took me a good minute or two for the reality to sink in - McCarran International Airport was a frikkin' casino! (And only would I realize later on, that there are more slot machines in Vegas than there are toilets, ATMs and vending machines all put together! Slot machines were omnipresent, omnipotent and omni-everything!)

Apart from doubling up and serving as a casino, the airport was full of advertisements. Not a single piece of naked wall could be seen, as hoardings upon hoardings decorated them like wallpapers. There were advertisements of casinos and hotels, which cajoled the already mesmerized travelers into checking in at their plush suites; shows and performances, that catered to every age group imaginable - from musicals like the Lion King, theatrical shows like the Cirque de Soleil and magic shows of David Copperfield; to more adult oriented shows like Criss Angel's Mindfreak, Playboy Standup Comedy; to more kinkier shows like Holly Madison's Peepshow (oh boy! what a name for a show!) and of course I assume that there would be others whose posters they could not have possibly put up in the Airport!

But there was one poster covering almost one entire section of the hallway that was jarring and annoying to the eye. It read 'Chippendales' and it had the picture of 5 barely clad muscular dudes showing off their six pack abs. I asked in a partly disgusted and partly envious tone, "Dude, what is that?"
"Oh, I guess that's a strip club for women," A replied. (A and K were the two other members of our three man wolfpack.)

And when I saw hordes and hordes of ladies excitedly chattering away amongst themselves, in their sparkling and skimpy outfits, I realized that Vegas was as much a place for estrogen charged females as it was for those testosterone driven males. (And what was most surprising was that there were more women in Vegas than there were men!)

We decided not to wait for our third friend (K) who was driving in from Arizona and was supposed to pick us up at the airport, since it would take him about an hour to reach Vegas. After all, there was a fantastic room at MGM Grand that was eagerly awaiting its new temporary occupants.

"So, we'll ask K to come to the hotel directly?" I asked.

"I guess so. We'll take a cab then?" A suggested.

"Dude, MGM is just like a mile or so away I guess," I responded after scrutinizing the route shown by Google Maps, "Let's walk. We'll get the true feel of Las Vegas, that way!"

"It's gonna be hot outside," A warned.

"So what dude? You think I can't handle the heat? I've been brought up in Delhi. I used to play cricket when it was 40 plus outside. Let's go," I said.

"Suit yourself," A shrugged and followed me outside the doors of the airport terminal.

And as we stepped out of the airport and landed our feet firmly on the sinfully opulent soil of Las Vegas, it felt as if we had walked right into a furnace. My skin burned and my body felt as if it had been set on fire and an invisible shadow of incessant heat descended down on me, swallowing me into its fiery, infernal mass! To put it in simple words - it was insanely hot. Like delhi-in-mid-june-3pm-hot! And for a person who had been forced to acclimatize to bone chilling temperatures of -25 degree celsius in the unforgiving village of Lafayette, this oppressive heat seemed too much handle.

"Dude, cab...please," I grinned shamelessly.

As we walked towards the taxi stands, we saw a couple of sleek Lincoln Limousines gliding away from the airport. A looked at me ogling at those elegant machines and said, "You know, we could ride in one of those...those limos are taxis."

"Wow! It'll be so awesome riding in a limo! Let's go!" I chattered like an excited child in front of a candy store.

"But it'll be expensive," A said in his typical warning ridden tone.

"It's alright. We are earning now." I said.

"Ok. But let's just check the prices for the normal taxi."

"Shouldn't be much. I mean, MGM's like 1.8 miles away or something. Shouldn't be more than 7 to 8 dolla-"
I was cut short when my jaw dropped at the prices listed on the taxi stand - a dollar for every 13th of a mile.

"And that would be more than 20," A looked at me with a mischievous smile on his face.

I adjusted the collar of my polo tee-shirt and replied, "Let's just wait for K...he should be reaching here any minute."
And I continued looking at my watch long after I had seen what the time was...

Monday, July 11, 2011

36 Hours of Sin - Chapter 1

Disclaimer : This post may not be suitable for audiences below 18 without parental guidance.

Chapter 1
The Inception
-04 hours to 00 hours

The idea of going to Vegas was seeded long ago (the moment I set foot in the United States, to be precise), but the idea began to take shape only a few weeks back. I realized that it was the perfect time to visit the sin city - free flow of cash (thanks to the internship), absolutely free weekends (thanks to the internship), no assignments and exams and papers and submissions and deadlines (thanks to the internship) and a group of friends split by geographical differences (thanks to the internship) who wanted to come together to experience one hell of a time! And thus, after little deliberation, the plan to go to Vegas was forged. Although I wish the wolfpack was complete, the three of us were enough...enough to do crazy shit! :)

And so I found myself sitting in the cramped and tattered seats of Spirit Airways, which happens to be America's proud version of our very own Air Deccan. Yes, the seats were actually tattered with the seat cover broken at places, exposing the yellow sponge of the cushion underneath, and it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that the interiors of the plane had an uncanny semblance to the interiors of a semi-deluxe Haryana roadways bus! Although they claimed to be a low cost airline, the tickets were as expensive as the other biggies. (We were compelled because of time constraints. Sigh!) So, I was cramped between an old blonde woman wearing a few clothes and excessive make-up, and a broad shouldered muscular dude with a tatoo of Japanese lettering on his bare forearms. With my i-pod battery discharged and a book that I had finished reading at the airport itself, I was left with nothing to do except close my eyes and relive the movie - Hangover, again and again and again in my mind. And just when Alan was getting tased by the fat kid for the 5th time now, I was disrupted by a very disturbing comment made by the captain of the plane. He said (and I reproduce almost verbatim), "...We'll be a little late to take-off. We had some maintenance on this plane in the morning. So, we are just doing some last minute checks before we get the all clear. Hopefully, everything should be fine...."

The three of us looked at each other with one common expression - 'Hopefully? WTF!'

And although my mind moved over from playing countless repetitions of Hangover to playing countless repetitions of Airframe (that's a Michael Crichton novel...obvious isn't it? :P), the flight was uneventful (thankfully), apart from a few roller coaster simulations due to weather turbulence. The minutes seemed like hours and the hours seemed like days, while I watched the guy in front of me order 5 rounds of Smirnoff shots. And it was during his fifth round that he and his girlfriend began to sway in their seats, and dropped the vodka bottle which came slowly rolling down to my feet. I picked it up and tapped the man on his shoulder.
"You dropped your bottle," I said.
He turned around and with a silly smile on his face, replied in a deep drawling voice, "Thanks man! My girlfriend told me not to drink too much on the plane." He started laughing.
"Err...oh..hmm..yeah," I replied.
"By the way man-" he began his drawl only to stop suddenly. A look of astonishment and surprise came over his misty little eyes, "Dude, what's your high school...where'dya do it?"
"What?" I asked.
"High schoool," he replied slowly, thinking that I didn't understand what he was speaking.
"I...err..." What the hell is he asking, I thought. "I go to college...Purdue," I replied for the lack of anything else meaningful to say.
"Dude...We went to high school at Michigan! Remember me?"
"Uhhh....I don't think so."
He looked at me in shock, as if I had committed a blasphemous act by not recognizing him. But then slowly reality dawned on him.
"Oh, sorry man. I just thought that you were someone I went to school with. Sorry man, I'm drunk. Haha!" He laughed.

It starts here and it never ends! I thought.

Two hours later, the plane began to descend over a sea of red - the Nevada/Arizona desert with miles and miles of unending canyons, mountains and red soil, where neither vegetation grows nor animals dwell. And standing amidst the surrounding barren landscape, a tiny strip of land loomed in front like a mirage. Through the brown dusty haze, I could see the silhouette of buildings...buildings with weird shapes - A Pyramid, A Colloseum, skyscrapers resembling New York, a structure that looked like Seattle's Space needle, and believe it or not, the Eiffel Tower itself!

And thus, in the center of the geographic badlands, lay the 'baddest' lands of them all - Las Vegas!

As the tires of the plane screeched on the burning tarmac, the hefty guy sitting next to me and turned and spoke out, "So, is this your first time to Vegas?"

"Yes," I replied.
"Then you're gonna love it," he smiled mischievously.
"What about you?" I asked.
"I used to live in Vegas. Played professional football here. So, how long will you be here?"
"I'm here just for the weekend."
"Ah! That's sad man. Would've got more girls if you stayed more days." He chuckled and continued, "By the way, where are you staying?"
"Holy shit! Awesome man!" He smiled with that typical 'Kya baat hai!' smile. He continued, "This place is crazy. Every time I'm here, I wake up with a different girl on bed!"
I did not know whether to act astonished or to act horrified, so I simply said, "Oh I see..."
"There are prostitutes everywhere...if you planning on doing them that is," he winked.
"Err...no," I replied.
"Be careful man. This is your first time in Vegas. Take it a little easy. Don't get too carried away with the gambling, booze and the girls."

"We'll see," I smiled back.

And then I stepped out of the plane and into the terminal of McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Of Devils, Dunes and Death-Defying Roller Coasters - Part 1

A couple of weeks ago, I joined my brother and his wife on a wonderful weekend trip to a place called 'Devil's Lake'. We rented a car, packed our picnic lunches and headed off on an unusually sunny saturday morning from our base camp in Milwaukee. After a lot of insisting, requesting and pleading, I convinced my brother to hand over the wheel to me, all the while assuring them that I was an excellent driver and that they needn't worry. During the entire journey, I would repeatedly tell them, "I did not make a single mistake in my driving test. Not one!", to which my brother would immediately retort, "This is the real world. This is the city of Milwaukee and not a village like your Lafayette." After two hours of careful and diligent driving, we managed to reach the lake without an dents, scratches or bruises. Phew!

(Pic 1 : Panoramic View of Devil's Lake. Click to enlarge.)

Situated at a comfortable two hour drive from our base camp in Milwaukee, the Devil's Lake is a sparkling body of fresh water abandoned in the midst of a lush green hilly forest by the glacial retreat during the last known Ice Age. Curious as to why it was called the Devil's Lake, I scrutinized the horizon to look for some kind of a devil-related formation. Perhaps, the lake had a shape of the Devil's horns, or maybe the hills surrounding it would resemble the Devil's pitchfork. But sadly, my imagination proved to be wastefully vivid. Only later would I come to know (upon reading the Wikipedia entry after coming back home) that the name was given by the Ho-Chunk Red Indian tribe of Wisconsin, because they often used to hear the voices of the 'spirits' from the lake. Ah! I wish I knew that before...would have done a little snooping around!

The lake and its adjoining forested area were converted into a Wisconsin State Park, and like all other state parks that I have visited before, the place retained its pristine beauty despite the hordes of tourists who flocked to this area. After relishing a wonderful picnic lunch prepared by my sister-in-law, we decided to do some trekking. With water-bottles, maps and insect repellent sprays clutched in our hands, and with the intoxicating taste of tamarind rice and mango pickle fresh in our mouths, we headed off on the 'Trail of the Balanced Rock'.

The trail first led us through a twisted pathway of fresh and damp undergrowth and then almost a vertical climb over the surface of the tallest hill that adjoined the lake. The upward climb was tiresome and scary. With nothing to hold on but the wet and slippery rocks alongside, the trek squeezed the juices out of us. This trail was marked as a 'difficult trail' on the map. But the very fact that it was mentioned as a 'trail' meant that it could be traversed without any equipment.
"This should've been marked over-difficult", I complained. But then I saw a horde of Chinese tourists that included young kids (the kind who go to kindergarten) and elderly adults (the kind who sit on the porch and tell stories to their grandchildren), happily leaping forward, without the slightest of fatigue. It was then that I shut up and continued trekking forward or upward or whichever it was!

We were so engrossed on our trek that we completely missed the detour that we had to take to go to the Balanced Rock. And so, instead of posing with the 'Balanced Rock', grinning from head to toe, for a facebook profile pic, I had to contend with reading its description on the map, which went something like this : " The Balanced Rock is a natural rock formation wherein a huge boulder is being balanced at the tip by a small pebble", or something of that sort.

The trail became more and more vertical as we moved ahead, the boulders got sharper and steeper. At one point, we heard a huge ruckus of excited voices and clunking metal. On a small landing at the base of the ragged vertical cliff face, we saw a group of professional mountain climbers scurrying about with their equipment. While some of them attached harnesses and began climbing the sheer face of the cliff with their bare hands and feet, others swung like pendulums bouncing off the craggy wall as they rappelled down from the top. For the real professionals, these might have been amateur mountain climbers, but for us, they were seriously professional!

And finally after almost an hour long trek, we the summit of the hill. The view from the top was spectacular. We could see the shapes of tiny little sail-boats and kayaks that bobbed up and down like a child's bathtub toys, over the calm waters of the lake whose water shimmered under the setting sun. Surrounding the circular lake, like a protective barrier, were the groups of hills and hillocks, not unlike the one we were on, but smaller. The hills were clad in the green as the tree-tops looked like one insanely huge broccoli farm. I stood at the cliff, going as close to the edge as my mind dared me, and looked down at the magnificent sight, feeling that I was at the top of the world. Just then, I heard the shrieks of an eagle. I looked up to see a group of those majestic predatory birds, circling high over us, unconcerned with the activities down below, yet keeping a watchful eye.
Perhaps, man can never consider himself above nature!

(Pic 2 : Mountain climbers rappel down from a cliff)

It was a pleasure trekking on the flat plateau-like surface of the hill top. Although the trail was riddled with small pebbles, centipedes and dangerous-looking ants, the trek came as much-awaited relief for our knees hurt after the strenuous uphill climb. Disappointed that we missed the 'Balanced Rock', we moved on to the next 'attraction' of the park - The Devil's Archway.

(Pic 3 : Sunset over Devil's Archway)

The Devil's Archway was a natural rock outcropping that jutted out from the cliff forming an archway that resembled the symbol 'pi'. The top part of the arch was about 20 feet above the surface. Although it was not as magnificent as it was 'marketed' to be, the place indeed had its own charm and splendor.

After a brief rest and photography sessions with the Devil's Archway, we decided to begin our descent. While one part of me said, "Let's go back the same way and get down fast" the other said, "what's the point of going back on the same path? Adventure lies in finding a new one! And of course, nothing can be worse than the Balanced Rock Trail!"

Only after fifteen minutes or so, did I realize how wrong I was. We had planned to take an 'easy trail', (as it was shown in the map) that led all the way the along the circumference of the hill gently sloping downward through a mud track. Although it was longer than all the other trails, it was definitely more 'hospitable'. But owing to a misplaced signboard on a fork, we ended up taking another 'difficult' trail!

The descent along this 'difficult trail' was even more treacherous. The rocks in this side of the hill were mossy and slippery. The fact that I was wearing running shoes didn't help either. Grasping for potential hand-holds and foot-holds, we slowly made our descent. Suddenly, the dirt pathway that guided us ended abruptly at a cliff with nothing in front except the steep rocky slope and the thick canopy down below. The slope was littered with huge boulders, native rock of the hill that had probably been exposed by landslides.

"There's no trail ahead. It just ended!" I shouted back to my companions.
"According to the map, there is a trail. Just keep going forward," came their reply.
"WTF! Just come and look for yourselves!" I almost shouted out.
When they arrived at my vantage point, my sister-in-law pointed to the jagged rocks on the slope and said, "That's the trail."
"What? You mean, we have to climb down those rocks?"
Both of them solemnly nodded.

(Pic 4 : Our descent over the rocky slope)

Although I was tired and weary, the fear of falling down and getting impaled like the Prince of Persia, recharged my adrenaline. And after a nerve-racking 15 minutes of descent, we managed to reach the forest floor safely.

The last trek of our journey was a trail through the canopy and back to the central picnic area where we had parked our car. The birds chirped around us, and rivulets of fresh water flowed about happily. Most of the trail was covered by the thick forest canopy, but at some places the golden rays of the setting sun managed to pierce the tree cover, casting glowing yellow spotlights on the ground. This final trail proved to be the most pleasurable, even more so, since we were adorned with an unwavering sense of self-satisfaction...the satisfaction of conquering Devil's Lake!

(Pic 5 : The jungle trail)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Two Guys and the Holy Bible

March proved to be an eventful month for me. I celebrated my 22nd birthday, traveled on an all expenses paid trip to Seattle (where I flunked an interview and met a few interesting people), enjoyed a weekend road trip to Washington DC (where I met with those three dramatic incidents that I had described in much detail in the previous blog posts), experienced some mundane things like getting screwed in the mid term exams and some not so mundane things like watching India win the world cup.

And sometime in the middle of march, I had yet another interesting encounter that deserves mention on this blog.

It was around seven in the evening. I was sitting outside Starbucks (in the basement of the Purdue Memorial Union) with a delightful caramel Frappuchino to keep me company, as I pored over pages upon pages of intellectual hocus-pocus. I had a paper submission deadline in a couple of days' time and I had barely started off with the background research. I was fighting a losing battle against the sands of time.

From the corner of my eye, I could see two tall, well built blokes walking towards me. And I naturally assumed that they were coming to my table to grab a couple of empty chairs. The taller guy somehow looked distinctively familiar.

The shorter of the two guys spoke out in a thick Spanish accent, "Hi there! Do you have a moment?"

"Uhh...yes, I suppose so," I replied. I was in a weird position, holding the coffee cup in one hand and sucking on its straw, while holding on to a badly crumpled piece of paper on the other.

"We would like to ask you a few questions," the guy continued.

Questions? What sort of questions?
I gulped looking at the size of those two guys* standing in front of me.

Without waiting for a reply, they sat down, one on either side. The taller guy put down a hard bound 'Holy Bible' on the table with a loud thump.

Oh my God! Now I know why he looks familiar. He looks just like Silas!**

The shorter guy took out a sheaf of papers from his bag. And the moment I saw those papers with their short one liners and distinctive bullets that followed, I realized what the rendezvous was all about.

"So, you're here for a survey?" I asked.

"Yes, yes," the shorter guy replied. "By the way," he continued, "my name is Carlos(name changed) and this is my friend Joe(name changed)." While Carlos grinned broadly, Joe gave a quiet and courteous nod.

"Nice to meet you guys. I'm Sri," I smiled back and extended my hand. Although I knew that the hourglass would now become even more porous to the sands of time, I relished the prospect of having an interesting conversation with these two strangers.

"Okay Sri, here is the first question," Carlos said, making it sound more like a game show than a survey. "What are your opinions on pre-marital sex? Are you for it or against it?"

"I well...uhh" I was completely taken aback by the bluntness of the question. I continued, "Well I am not against pre-marital sex like I'm against say, violence or drugs..."

"So, does that mean that you are for it? You want pre-marital sex?" Carlos asked, twirling his pencil through his fingers, eager to jot down anything that I spoke.

"I just said that I'm not against the concept. But that does not mean that I will follow it." I replied.

Carlos looked at me confusedly and then continued, "Okay. Now on to the next question. Do you believe in euthanasia, or mercy killing?"

"Okay brother! I know where you are getting at!" I thought as I looked at the Bible that rested below Joe's big hands.

"I am not against Euthanasia. Frankly, I believe that if a person wishes that his life be taken, and that his loved ones wish that his life be taken, so that he need not endure endless pain and suffering, then I believe that he has every right to do so."

Carlos nodded and scribbled something down. He continued, "What do you think about abortion? Do you think it should be made legal?"

"Uhh...now that's a tricky question. I don't know what say. I mean, it probably depends on the situation."

"Now, don't be diplomatic, Sri." Joe spoke for the first time. He had a mischievous smile on his face.

"Well...I guess it is wrong to take an innocent life. Abortion does exactly that. But what if the child is born in an environment where he or she is forced to face a life of suffering and pain. I mean, the mother generally has a very strong reason, if she decides to abort the child. And considering the fact that no mother would want her child dead, that reason perhaps justifies her act," I replied.

"But who are we to decide that, my friend. It is the Lord who decides the fate of the child. He decides the fate for each and every one of us," Carlos said. His eyes were twinkling as he spoke.

"Maybe," I shrugged. "But there is an interesting thing about abortion."

Both Carlos and Joe raised their eyebrows as I continued further, "I read this book called Freakonomics. Heard of that one?"

"Uhhm. I guess I've heard of it," Carlos replied.

"Those guys proved that there was a direct relation between the legalization of abortion and the level of crime in the area. I don't remember which US state it was, but it seems that crime rate drastically declined after the state legalized abortion. And come to think of it, it could actually be true."


"The children who would've otherwise been aborted, end up being orphans. And as they grow up, the lack of a family and parental love, takes a toll on them. Lack of education leads to unemployment and unemployment leads to crime." I sat back, put one leg on top of the other and sipped my coffee.

"Alright, now on to the next question," Carlos said in a very thoughtful voice, "Do you believe that Jesus is the son of God?"

Aha! Eventually it had to boil down to a religious discussion!

I chose my words very carefully as I spoke, "Well, maybe I'm not the right person to answer this question." The sentence ended up being quite awkward. I quickly continued, "What I mean to say is that I am not a follower of Christianity, so my ignorance prevents me from speaking much about this question."

"I see." Joe smiled and dragged his chair forward and peered into my eyes as he spoke, "So, what religion do you follow?"

"I am a Hindu. Hinduism is not just a religion though, it's a way of life." I stared back into his eyes.

"So, what do you know about Christianity?" Carlos asked.

"Just the basic stuff that I gathered from books and movies."

Carlos immediately began his excited talk about Jesus's life, the miracles that he performed, the last supper, the crucifixion and the resurrection.

"Yes, yes. I am familiar with that legend." I interrupted him.

"Not legend, my friend. It's a historical truth. A lot of archaeologists around the world have proved it."

"Well, it doesn't really matter, does it?"

"What do you mean?"

"All that matters is faith. I mean it really doesn't matter if Jesus actually walked amongst us or not." Carlos and Joe seemed shocked. I twirled the straw around the coffee cup as I continued, "What I mean to say is that, irrespective of what the historical truth is, the story of Jesus is a symbol. It teaches us to be good moral human beings and reminds us that we are eternally under the grace of the Lord. Be it or fact or fiction. It's the faith that matters."

"Hmmm...well said." Joe nodded.

"So, coming back to my original question, do you believe that Jesus is the son of God?" Carlos asked.

"I believe that Jesus was a great messiah."

"That does not answer my question." Carlos repeatedly tapped his pencil on the table.

"And that's the only answer that I have." I shrugged and pretended to sip my coffee.

Joe pushed forward the Bible that he was holding in his hands. "Have you read the Holy Bible?" he asked.

"I've read some of it. I've read the Genesis."

"So, did you like it?" Carlos interrupted.

"Yeah. Genesis is more like a history lesson. I enjoyed reading it. And I love some of the verses in the Bible. They are very good."

"If you like the Bible so much, why don't you follow Christianity?" Joe blurted out.

I let out a half-grunt cleared my throat and countered, "Do you believe in God?"
Both of them nodded. I continued, "And I do too. So, what difference does it make, if I follow the Christian ways or not...when the both of us believe in the existence of an almighty being?"

"Jesus sacrificed his life to pay for our sins. And that is what prevents us from getting sent to hell despite of all the sins that we commit."

"I don't think we should look at it that way. See, we must respect the fact that Jesus sacrificed his own life to pay for our sins. If we continue to sin thinking that Jesus will save us, of what use would his sacrifice be? We must honor that sacrifice by not committing any sin in the first place."

For a moment, none of them spoke. They seemed to be lost in their thoughts.

It was Joe who broke the silence. "I believe in Jesus because he saved my life." He stared at me through his dreamy eyes. "A few years back, I was an atheist. My life had become a complete wreck. I was addicted to drugs. I had troubles with my relationships. I flunked all my exams. And just when I thought that my life was over, Jesus showed himself to me. I saw him. And that's when I started believing in God. I have been praying to him ever since. And because of his grace, I've reclaimed my life. I've stopped with the drugs. I got into Purdue and I'm doing well in my courses. My relationships are back on track. Jesus is real, my friend. And he is watching us right now."

"Good for you, mate," I said and shuddered a little.

"Jesus will reveal himself to you, if you do not believe in his existence. And when he does, you will change your mind," Joe said in a hypnotic voice.

"Yes, my friend. Jesus can come in any form. If you want to meet him and see how it feels like to connect to God-"

I interrupted Carlos midway through his sentence,

"I don't need God to reveal himself for me to believe in his existence. I just believe. As I told you before, faith does not need evidence."

"What you say is true," Carlos smiled politely. He continued, "Thank you very much Sri for your time. I really enjoyed talking to you."

"Yeah," Joe added.

"And now we'd like to give you back something in return." He had a mysterious smile on his face. "Do you believe in the power of prayers?" he asked.

"Yes, I do."

"Then we'd like to pray for you. Is there any wish that you have, anything that you'd like God to hear?"

"Well...uhm...as of the moment, I guess I'd be glad if I get a summer internship."

"Okay. We will pray for you now."

With that Carlos closed his eyes, bowed his head and joined his hands. Joe did the same.

"Sri would like to get a summer internship. And together we pray for the same. Please God, listen to our prayer and grant him this summer internship. Amen."

"Amen," I said softly.

With that, both Carlos and Joe got up, shook my hands and blended into the crowd of students. ***

* Invariably, everyone is taller and larger than me.

** The pitiable villain from the hit fiction novel, The Da Vinci Code, and the role played by Paul Bettany in the movie of the same name.

***Although I did not get through in Microsoft, I did manage to get an internship with Simplex Investments. Maybe that collective prayer really paid off!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What Happens in DC stays in DC - Part 3

Incident 3 - The Innocent Bystander

Most of us often ponder about the things that we wished to happen but which never happened. We look back at past events and ask ourselves a thought provoking question - 'what if?', the answer to which is seldom known. What if I had done something different? What if I had not spoken those words? What if I had studied more? What if I had prepared better? Questions like these about parallel realities often trouble us after we make a mistake or end up doing something that causes grief and dissatisfaction. But how many times have we used the same question to ponder about the things that which almost happened but we never wish for it happen in the first place? It is a rare feeling that often accompanies a moment of relief. Thank God, it never happened! What if I had failed in my exams? What if my secrets had been revealed? What if I had met with an accident? And today, I write this blog post with the same kind of relief that certain events that I did not wish to experience swept past me as mere possible parallel realities, instead of the one true eternal reality.

The third eventful incident in our colorful DC trip was nothing short of a tryst with mortal peril. It was an incident that lasted barely for a second, yet it managed to permanently etch itself in my memory.

It was mid afternoon. The weather was glorious. The sun shone brightly and the sky was blue and spotless. It was the commencement of Spring and the sight of the Blue Ridge Mountains was amazing. The Interstate in West Virginia was a pleasure to travel on...marvelously engineered for high speeds and breathtaking vistas. We were rocketing ahead at speed of around 90 miles an hour (around 145 kmph) and yet it felt completely normal, as normal as driving in the bumper to bumper traffic in Delhi! Everyone was driving at the same speed. We were in a long straight section of the road with three lanes on each side, comfortably separated by a grassy divider as wide as a two-lane road.

The highway was busy yet smooth, as cars and trucks freely moved on both sides. It was then that I saw a huge truck (that looked not very different from the likes of Optimus Prime and his transforming buddies) approaching from the opposite side of the road. The payload section of the truck was open and a huge black colored mass was stacked on it. As the truck approached closer, I realized that those black objects were truck tyres, neatly stacked on top of one another and held together by a harness.

All of a sudden, one of the tyres magically broke loose from the harness, popped out of the back of the truck and bounced across the road. Before our minds could register what was happening, the rogue tyre bounced once on the grassy divider and jumped right at us. And it was at that fleeting moment when I saw the tyre coming towards us like a canonball, that I realized that we were in serious danger.

Let us do a quick analysis of the situation. The diameter of the tyre was a big as the extent of my outstretched arms. Since both our car and truck were traveling at around 90 miles per hour, it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that the tyre was heading at us at around 150 miles per hour (assuming the loss of speed owing to the other directional components and to the one bounce on the divider). Although I didn't think of all these calculations during that moment, I knew for sure that with that momentum, the tyre could easily smash the windshield, if not crush our car.

The incident happened so fast that I cannot recollect what happened next. All I remember is the feeling of instantaneous shock being replaced by instantaneous relief as I saw the tyre miraculously miss our car, and the other car to our right, and roll harmlessly into the fields beyond. Perhaps, B, who was driving the car, made a split second turn or perhaps the tyre simply managed to bounce over the bonnet of the car...I really can't say what happened.

What harm can a rogue tyre cause, you may ask?

In July 2009, Formula 2 driver Henry Surtees, son of F1 legend John Surtees was hit by a rogue tyre during a race in Brands Hatch. He was instantly killed.
(I had seen this video countless times. Imagine how I would've felt when I saw that tyre coming straight at us!)
A few days later, F1 driver Felipe Massa was also hit by a rogue tyre on the race track, leading to a serious injury on his eyes and head.

Agreed that we were not traveling in an open top vehicle and not as fast as an F2 car, but still, a variety of 'what if' situations were possible. What if the tyre smashed our windshield? What if we lost control and smashed into the car adjacent to us? What if the tyre hit the car next to us and that car lost control and rammed into us? What if we braked to avoid the tyre and got pummeled from the back by an 18-wheeler? Each of these situations could have possibly led to fatal injuries, if not death! (a la 'Final Destination').We were indeed lucky to escape unscathed.

When I look back at this incident, I realize one brutal truth about life. No matter how much you may claim to be in control of your life, there are certain events that defy rationale, certain things that defy logic, things that are simply beyond your control no matter what you do.

I believe it is called Fate...